Can Rat Poison Kill Humans? How Rodenticides Work


Rat poison is a pretty common form of pest control used to get rid of unwanted rodents in your home, and it’s pretty easy to get hold of.

However, if a human ingests any of the compounds that make up rat poison it can have some pretty fatal consequences. 

Also known as rodenticides, rat poisons contain ingredients that are highly toxic. When handling rodenticides, it’s important you keep contact to a minimum, as any exposure to these chemicals can cause mild irritation when touched.

Can Rat Poison Kill Humans

Ingesting rat poison is highly dangerous as it can cause internal bleeding, organ failure and paralysis. In more extreme circumstances it can put you into a coma, and can even lead to death. 

Any signs of toxicity can show within several hours, or even days, of exposure. If you, or someone you know, has ingested rat poison you must contact Poison Control immediately as you will need medical attention – do not wait for any symptoms to occur as this may have fatal effects. 

You can reach the Poison Control Hotline at 800-222-1222. 

What Is Rat Poison?

Rat poison contains anticoagulants, which are also known as blood thinners, and are responsible for more than 50% of rat poison-related calls made to the Poison Control Center every year. 

How Does Rat Poison Work? 

The anticoagulant chemicals that are found in rat poison cause internal bleeding inside of rats and mice.

The chemicals can take up to five days to start working, but eventually a rat’s body will be unable to form blood clots and will die. 

Different brands of rat poison contain different chemicals that cause different reactions. 

For example: 

  • Bromethalin: This is a neurotoxic that damages the nervous system by causing swelling and cell death. A rat that has eaten bromethalin will vomit, have seizures, become paralysed and fall into a coma. This will happen within eight hours of exposure. 
  • Zinc Phosphide: This chemical produces a lethal gas that will cripple the major organs, which will result in anxiety, weakness, pacing and convulsions. These tend to work between four to eighteen hours of exposure. 
  • Anticoagulants: As noted earlier, these cause internal bleeding which will lead to breathing struggles, seizures, bleeding gums and abdominal swelling. The effects of this will take effect several days after exposure. 

Anticoagulant rat poison first hit the market in the 1950s, but rodents quickly became resistant to its effects. As a result a super anticoagulant rodenticide was created, which has prolonged effects and is at least 100 times more toxic. This is why it’s so important that you do not ingest any rat poison. 

Can You Die From Ingesting Rat Poison? 

If consumed in large amounts, rat poison can indeed cause death. However, you should not ingest any, no matter how small the amount is.

Some healthy adults will not die if they consume a small amount of rat poison, but everyone reacts to toxic substances differently.

If you, or someone you know, ingests any amount of rat poison you should call 911 or Poison Control immediately. 

The most likely effect, if you are a healthy adult, is moderate or severe effects to your cardiovascular system. If you are dealing with rodenticides it’s important that you are extra careful. 

Side Effects Of Consuming Rat Poison 

These side effects can take anywhere from several hours to several days to occur. Here are some of the some the symptoms: 

  • Bleeding from gums and nose
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Chest tightness
  • Large and unexplainable bruises on your body 
  • Blood in urine 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Painful coughing 

These are very serious side effects, so if you have ingested rat poison do not wait for any side effects to occur – seek medical attention immediately. 

Rat Poison

Rat Poison Treatment 

If you have ingested rat poison, do not attempt to treat yourself with medicine or home remedies. You need professional care, so please consult either 911 or Poison Control.

Most rat poisons will come with first aid instructions and it’s important to read them before you open the product. 

How Much Rat Poison Will Kill Humans? 

There is no exact rule for how much rat poison can cause death, as several factors such as age, weight and health all contribute to how harmful it can be.

With that being said, children and those suffering from cardiovascular or liver issues can be fatally harmed after ingesting even the smallest amount. 

Premade rat traps usually contain around 50 mg per trap. A child under 30 pounds need only ingest around 1.5 mg to get seriously sick and some humans have no tolerance for any amount.

On average around 10,000 adults and children are endangered by rat poison in the U.S. each year.  This is why we prefer to kill rats without poisons.

Safety Tips 

As you’re working with potentially harmful chemicals, when laying rat traps that contain rodenticides it’s important you follow safety precautions.

To ensure you’re using rat poison safely, consider the following steps:

  • Read all instructions on the packaging carefully before you open any pest control poison kits. 
  • Carefully remove bait traps from their packaging. 
  • When placing bait traps down, make sure they’re placed somewhere children and pets cannot reach them. 
  • Check on the traps every four to eight hours. 
  • If a rat or a mouse has been caught by a trap, wear gloves and dispose of your trap carefully.
  • Afterwards, carefully clean the area in which you placed the traps. 

Rodents, unfortunately, are extremely smart and can enter your home in a multitude of ways. They can get in through holes in the wall, the roof and can even gnaw their way through your walls.

It’s important that you do not place the traps in open spaces, or in close proximity to each other. 

In closing, rat poison should be handled exactly according to its packaging. In homes with children and pets, it’s best to avoid it altogether.

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