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Pyrethroid Poisoning - An Overview

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Pesticides, such as pyrethrins and pyrethroids, are sprayed on plants. Extreme symptoms may be brought on when a high pyrethroid concentration is used on the crops.

Written by

Swetha. R.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At January 30, 2024
Reviewed AtJanuary 30, 2024


Pyrethroids, synthetic chemical compounds derived from natural pyrethrins found in chrysanthemum flowers, have gained popularity in agriculture, household pest control, and public health due to their potent insecticidal properties. Their widespread use raises concerns regarding human and environmental safety. Pyrethroid poisoning occurs when individuals are exposed to high levels of these chemicals, leading to various toxic effects.

What Is the Definition of Pyrethroid Poisoning?

Pyrethroid poisoning refers to the toxic effects that occur when an individual or animal is exposed to an excessive amount of pyrethroid insecticides. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemical compounds derived from natural pyrethrins found in chrysanthemum flowers. When these compounds are ingested, inhaled, or come into contact with the skin in high concentrations, they affect the function of the CNS in the body, leading to poisoning.

What Are the Uses of Pyrethroid?

1. Agriculture: Pyrethroids are widely used in agriculture to protect crops from various pests, such as insects, mites, and nematodes. They are employed on crops like vegetables, fruits, grains, and ornamental plants to prevent infestations and enhance crop yield.

2. Public Health: These insecticides are crucial in public health initiatives to control disease-carrying vectors like mosquitoes, ticks, and flies. They are used in insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and controlling pests that transmit diseases like malaria, dengue, and Zika.

3. Household Pest Control: Pyrethroids are common ingredients in various household insecticides that control pests such as mosquitoes, fleas, cockroaches, and ants. They are present in sprays, aerosols, and other formulations used for indoor and outdoor pest control.

4. Livestock and Animal Health: In veterinary medicine, pyrethroids control parasites and insects that affect livestock, pets, and other animals. They are found in products like flea collars, sprays, and animal topical treatments.

5. Pest Management in Public Spaces: Pyrethroids are utilized in public spaces such as parks, recreational areas, and urban landscapes to control pests and reduce the risk of vector-borne diseases in communities.

What Are the Causes of Pyrethroid Poisoning?

Ingesting pyrethroid-containing products, either by mistaking them for food or beverages or through improper storage where children or pets can easily access them, can lead to poisoning. Breathing in aerosolized forms of pyrethroids, such as sprays or foggers, without proper ventilation or prolonged exposure to high concentrations in confined spaces can cause poisoning.

Direct contact with concentrated pyrethroid solutions, spills, or improper handling without protective gear can result in skin absorption and poisoning. Individuals working in agriculture, pest control, or industries involving the handling or application of pyrethroids might face higher risks of exposure due to prolonged contact or inadequate protective measures. Improper use of pyrethroid-containing products, such as using higher concentrations than recommended, disregarding safety instructions, or failing to use protective gear, increases the likelihood of poisoning.

Accidental contamination of food, water, or personal items due to spills or improper disposal of pyrethroid-based products can lead to unintended exposure and poisoning. Some individuals may be more sensitive to the toxic effects of pyrethroids due to pre-existing health conditions, allergies, or genetic factors, making them more prone to poisoning, even with lower levels of exposure.

What Are the Symptoms of Pyrethroid Poisoning?

  • Contact with pyrethroids can cause skin irritation, itching, redness, or a burning sensation.

  • Inhalation of pyrethroid-containing products may lead to respiratory symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, or irritation in the nose and throat.

  • Ingestion of pyrethroids can cause nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain.

  • Pyrethroids affect the nervous system, leading to a range of neurological symptoms. These may include dizziness, headache, fatigue, tremors, convulsions, muscle twitching, and, in severe cases, seizures.

  • Contact with the eyes can result in irritation, redness, tearing, or blurred vision.

  • High-level exposure or poisoning can lead to systemic effects such as weakness, fatigue, confusion, and, in extreme cases, respiratory failure, unconsciousness, and coma.

What Are the Management Strategies Of Pyrethroid Poisoning?

The first step is to remove the affected individual from the source of exposure to prevent further contact with pyrethroids. If exposure occurs through inhalation, move the person to an area with fresh air. For skin exposure, remove contaminated clothing and use water and detergent to clean the afflicted area completely. Immediate medical attention is crucial. Contact emergency services or take the individual to the nearest healthcare facility. Provide as much information as possible about the type of exposure, the pyrethroid involved, and the symptoms experienced.

Medical professionals will provide supportive care tailored to the symptoms and severity of poisoning. This may include managing respiratory distress, controlling seizures or tremors, and stabilizing vital signs. If the exposure is recent, healthcare providers might perform further decontamination procedures. This can involve additional washing of the skin or eyes or measures to clear the airways if there's inhalation exposure. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms. Medications might be administered to control nausea, vomiting, or seizures.

Respiratory support and other intensive care measures may be necessary for severe cases. Individuals affected by pyrethroid poisoning might need close monitoring for a period to ensure that symptoms do not worsen and to address any delayed reactions. To prevent future exposures, educate individuals and communities about properly handling and storing pyrethroid-containing products. Emphasize the use of personal protective equipment and adherence to safety guidelines during handling or application.

What Are the Medications Used for Pyrethroid Poisoning?

Medications might be given to control nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if they are present. Antiemetics (medications to reduce nausea and vomiting) may be prescribed to manage gastrointestinal symptoms. In cases where pyrethroid exposure leads to seizures or convulsions, anticonvulsants might be administered to control these symptoms.

Supportive measures such as oxygen therapy or bronchodilators may assist with breathing if respiratory issues or difficulty breathing are due to pyrethroid exposure. Close monitoring of vital signs, neurological status, and organ function is crucial.

Supportive care, including hydration and maintaining electrolyte balance, might be necessary in severe cases. In cases of recent ingestion, healthcare providers might give charcoal supplements to the intestines to aid in the absorption of any leftover poisons and prevent further absorption into the bloodstream.


While pyrethroids have proven effective in controlling pests, their toxicity to humans and animals underscores the importance of cautious handling and adherence to safety protocols. Awareness among users, proper training, and regulatory measures are vital to mitigate the risks associated with pyrethroid poisoning.

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Swetha. R.
Swetha. R.



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