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Oct 2002; Aug 2003; Sept 2004

Links to symptoms

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Biological agents: [Top]

Chemical-agents / Gases: [Top]

Sarin nerve gas symptoms: [Top]

  • blurred vision;
  • confusion;
  • diarrhea
  • drooling and excessive sweating;
  • drowsiness;
  • eye pain;
  • headache;
  • increased urination;
  • pin-point-sized retinas;
  • respiratory difficulty and failure;
  • runny nose;
  • small, pinpoint pupils;
  • nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain;
  • vomiting;
  • watery eyes;
  • weakness.

Ricin nerve gas symptoms: [Top]


Death from ricin poisoning could take place within 36 to 48 hours of exposure, whether by injection, ingestion, or inhalation. If the person lives longer than 5 days without complications, s/he will probably live.


First few hours:
  • aching muscles;
  • coughing;
  • difficulty breathing;
  • nausea;
  • tightness in the chest.

Next few hours,
  • excess fluid would build up in the lungs;
  • the body’s airways (such as lungs) would become severely inflamed (swollen and hot);
  • breathing would become even more difficult;
  • the skin might turn blue.


  • death could result;
  • internal bleeding of the stomach and intestines;
  • liver, spleen, and kidneys might stop working;
  • vomiting and bloody diarrhea.


  • death from multiple organ failure could result;
  • eventually, the liver, kidneys, and spleen would stop working;
  • massive bleeding from the stomach and intestines;
  • muscles and lymph nodes near the injection site die.

Note: The actual clinical manifestations of a ricin (or abrin) exposure may be more variable than described above.
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VX Nerve Gas Symptoms: [Top]

A fatal dose of vx nerve gas causes convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and death within several minutes. VX is the most deadly of the nerve gases.

  • increased heart rate;
  • increased salivation;
  • nausea;
  • vomiting.

Mustard Gas Symptoms: [Top]

Speed of onset: 1-12 hours or so depends on degree of exposure, usually not fatal.
  • digestive tract: abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting;
  • eyes: irritation, pain, swelling, and tearing;
  • respiratory tract: runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness, bloody nose, sinus pain, shortness of breath, and cough;
  • skin irritation to blisters.

Phosgene Symptoms: [Top]
  • coughing;
  • burning sensation in the throat and eyes;
  • watery eyes;
  • blurred vision;
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • skin contact can result in lesions similar to those from frostbite or burns;

Following exposure to high concentrations of phosgene, a person may develop fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) within 2 to 6 hours.
Exposure to phosgene may cause delayed effects that may not be apparent for up to 48 hours after exposure... People who have been exposed to phosgene should be monitored for 48 hours... Delayed effects can include the following:

  • coughing up white to pink-tinged fluid (a sign of pulmonary edema);
  • difficulty breathing;
  • heart failure;
  • low blood pressure.

Cyanide Symptoms: [Top]

People exposed to a small amount of cyanide by breathing it, absorbing it through their skin, or eating foods that contain it may have some or all of the following symptoms within minutes:
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heart rate
  • restlessness
  • weakness

Exposure to a large amount of cyanide by any route may cause these other health effects as well:
  • convulsions;
  • low blood pressure;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • lung injury;
  • respiratory failure leading to death;
  • slow heart rate.

Chlorine Symptoms: [Top]
  • blurred vision;
  • burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin if exposed to gas, skin injury similar to frostbite if exposed to liquid chlorine;
  • burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes;
  • watery eyes;
  • chest tightness;
  • coughing;
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (may appear immediately if high concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled, or may be delayed if low concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled);
  • fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) within 2 to 4 hours;
  • nausea and vomiting.

None of the symptoms or symptom clusters described above are necessarily sufficient for a diagnosis. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.


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