The following health effects are described in cases of suicide or accidental exposure to high levels of cyanide compounds. These effects are not expected following low-dose exposures:
- Irritation of skin and mucous membranes (causing redness or flushing of skin)
- Headaches, dizziness and loss of coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid, deep breathing or gasping
- Rapid pulse rate and increased blood pressure
- Muscle spasms and convulsions
- Loss of consciousness and death
In general, a chemical will affect the same organ systems in all people who are exposed. However, the seriousness of the effects may vary from person to person. A person's reaction depends on several things, including individual health, heredity, previous exposure to chemicals including medicines, and personal habits such as smoking or drinking.
It’s also important to consider the length of exposure to the chemical, the amount of chemical exposure, and whether the chemical was inhaled, touched, or eaten.
The following health effects can occur after several years of exposure to low levels of cyanide:
Cyanide can cause nerve damage affecting hearing, vision, and muscle coordination. Damage to the thyroid gland is also possible, resulting in changes of metabolism in adults and slowing growth or development in children.
Doctors can test urine for "thiocyanate" shortly after exposure to cyanide. Blood levels of cyanide can indicate recent exposure. Cigarette smokers generally have higher levels of cyanide-related compounds in their bodies than do nonsmokers.
Seek medical advice if you have any symptoms you think may be related to chemical exposure.