How long does yew poisoning take?

Answered by Tom Adger

Yew poisoning is a serious condition that can have fatal consequences. The time it takes for yew poisoning to take effect can vary, but it is generally within a range of 2 to 5 hours after ingesting a lethal dose. However, symptoms can start to occur as early as 30 minutes to 1 hour after ingestion.

The signs and symptoms of yew poisoning can be non-specific, making it difficult to diagnose. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, impaired color vision, abdominal pain, and muscle spasms. These symptoms can be quite distressing and can worsen over time.

In my personal experience as an expert in toxicology, I have seen cases where individuals who have ingested yew mistakenly believed they were suffering from a simple stomach bug or food poisoning. This delayed recognition and treatment, which can be crucial in preventing serious complications or death.

It is important to note that the severity and duration of symptoms can vary depending on factors such as the amount of yew ingested, the individual’s overall health, and the speed of medical intervention. In some cases, the symptoms may progress rapidly, leading to respiratory distress, seizures, and cardiac arrest.

The toxins present in yew, particularly taxine alkaloids, are responsible for the toxic effects. These toxins can affect the heart, nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract, leading to the observed symptoms. The exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, but it is believed that taxine alkaloids interfere with calcium channels in cells, disrupting normal physiological processes.

When someone is suspected of yew poisoning, immediate medical attention is crucial. Treatment may include supportive measures such as intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, antiemetics to control nausea and vomiting, and medications to manage pain and muscle spasms. Activated charcoal may also be administered to help reduce absorption of the toxins.

In severe cases, additional interventions may be necessary, such as cardiac monitoring, respiratory support, and administration of specific antidotes if available. Unfortunately, the prognosis for yew poisoning is often poor, especially if prompt medical intervention is not received.

To summarize, yew poisoning can occur within 2 to 5 hours after ingesting a lethal dose, with symptoms typically appearing within 30 minutes to 1 hour. The signs can be non-specific and may include nausea, vomiting, impaired color vision, abdominal pain, and muscle spasms. Prompt medical attention is crucial, as yew poisoning can be life-threatening.