Some symptoms of heat stress are similar to
symptoms of nerve agent poisoning.
The rapid action of nerve agents calls for immediate
administration of the antidotes atropine and
pralidoxime chloride (2-PAM C1). Atropine acts to dry
up secretions in the respiratory tract and to stimulate the
central respiratory functions, and 2-PAM C1
simultaneously relieves muscle paralysis, especially in
the respiratory tract. Both antidotes are self-injected
into the lateral thigh muscle by the use of automatic
Blister agents act on the eyes, mucous membranes,
lungs, and skin. Blister agents include mustard vapors
and mustard liquids. Mustards burn and blister the skin
they contact, damage the respiratory tract when inhaled,
and cause vomiting and diarrhea when absorbed. The
degree of damage depends on the type and
concentration of the agent, the weather, the amount of
activity of the individual, and amount of exposure time.
Blister agents are effective even in small quantities and
produce both immediate and delayed injuries.
Mustard vapors burn any area of the skin; but, the
burn is most severe in moist areas, such as the neck,
genitals, groin, armpits, bends of knees, and elbows.
Redness of the skin follows in 1/2 to 36 hours after
exposure. This condition may be accompanied by
intense itching, and blisters may then appear. Stiffness,
throbbing pain, and swelling may also occur.
A few hours after breathing the mustard vapor, a
victim experiences irritation of the throat, hoarseness,
and coughing. After severe exposure, the lining of the
respiratory system swells and interferes with breathing.
Frequently, pneumonia develops.
If the whole body is exposed to mustard vapor, the
body goes into a state of shock. This reaction is
accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Personnel who suspect contamination of their eyes
or face must seek overhead shelter and flush the eyes
with potable (drinkable) water from a canteen or
shower. Mild exposure to skin can be treated by
applying calamine lotion or topical steroid creams. All
blisters should be opened, drained, and cleansed with
tap or saline water. Any exposure to mustards require
medical care by a corpsman or medical personnel.
Blood agents inhibit the action of an enzyme
responsible for transferring oxygen from the blood to
the cells of the body. Thus the cells become starved for
oxygen. Inhalation is the usual route of entry for blood
The symptoms produced by blood agents depend on
the concentration of the agent and the duration (length
of time) of the exposure. Typically, either death occurs
rapidly or recovery takes place within a few minutes
after removal of the victim from the toxic atmosphere.
High concentrations of blood agent cause labored
breathing within a few seconds, violent convulsions,
followed by cessation (stoppage) of breathing
completely. Finally, the heart stops only a few minutes
after initial exposure. The symptoms of exposure to
blood agents are shown in the following chart:
Increased pulse rate
Red, flushed skin