Vital Signs

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Human subjects suffering from acute poisoning usually show alterations in the vital signs, which consist of temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. These are discussed here in connection with their uses as indicators of toxicant exposure.

Some toxicants that affect body temperature are shown in Figure 6.11. Among those that increase body temperature are benzadrine, cocaine, sodium fluoroacetate, tricyclic antidepressants, hexachlorobenzene, and salicylates (aspirin). In addition to phenobarbital and ethanol, toxicants that decrease body temperature include phenothiazine, clonidine, glutethimide, and haloperidol.

Toxicants may have three effects on pulse rate: bradycardia (decreased rate), tachycardia (increased rate), and arrhythmia (irregular pulse). Alcohols may cause either bradycardia or tachycardia. Amphetamines, belladonna alkaloids, cocaine, and tricyclic antidepressants (see imi-primine hydrochloride in Figure 6.12) may cause either tachycardia or arrhythmia. Toxic doses of digitalis may result in bradycardia or arrhythmia. The pulse rate is decreased by toxic exposure to carbamates, organophosphates, local anesthetics, barbiturates, clonidine, muscaric mushroom toxins, and opiates. In addition to the substances mentioned above, those that cause arrhythmia are arsenic, caffeine, belladonna alkaloids, phenothizine, theophylline, and some kinds of solvents.

Among the toxicants that increase respiratory rate are cocaine, amphetamines, and fluoroacetate (all of which are shown in Figure 6.11), nitrites (compounds containing the NO- ion), methanol (CH3OH), salicylates, and hexachlorobenzene. Cyanide and carbon monoxide may either increase or decrease respiratory rate. Alcohols other than methanol, analgesics, narcotics, sedatives, phe-nothiazines, and opiates in toxic doses decrease respiratory rate. The structural formulas of some compounds that affect respiratory rate are shown in Figure 6.13.

Amphetamine (benzedrine)

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