Castor beans are used to make castor oil, as they are the basic component needed. However, the main question is, what is Ricin? Also known as castor bean poison, Ricin is the waste product made when castor oil is produced.
Ricin is a highly potent poison found naturally in castor beans. If the castor beans are eaten and digested, they can cause fatal injury to the human system. It works by getting inside the body’s cells and prevents them from making any protein. Without the presence of proteins, the cells eventually finish. This, in return, snatches life from the system, resulting in death. There are many forms of this poison. It is found in powder form, a mist, dissolved in water, and mixed with weak acid. The lethal poison was discovered in 1888 by a German scientist named Peter Hermann Stillmark. It is one of the toxic substances known and is feared due to having the potential of being a biological warfare or as a weapon of extreme destruction. People can be affected by sniffing it, injecting it, or coming into contact with contaminated liquids or food.
Though it is infectious and dangerous, it’s not contagious. Even the symptoms of ricin poisoning depend on how much of it was taken and how it was taken (method of exposure). We will discover more about its symptoms depending on the type of exposure.
So let’s get into it!
Signs and Symptoms of Ricin
Ricin poisoning directly depends on the route of exposure and the dose taken. There are three types of exposure, meaning that there are three ways in which Ricin can enter a human body. These types are injecting, inhaling and ingesting. Thus, there are different symptoms for each distinct type. Generally, it is said that inhalation is a more lethal exposure than any other.
1. Ricin Poisoning by Injection
It is hard for Ricin to absorb through the skin, yet it can through under the skin, through the muscles and even through veins. As a result, one may feel swelling and discomfort where the poison has been injected. This is a rare case, but it can happen.
Nonetheless, if you have been injected with Ricin, you may have flu-like symptoms such as prolonged body aches, nausea, and puking. As time passes, the person infected will develop severe symptoms that can potentially cause life-threatening complications.
More signs include diarrhoea, fever, and inflammation of the liver, pancreas, and kidney.
2. Ricin Poisoning by Ingestion
The commonest of ricin poisoning is by ingesting it. If you are exposed to ricin poison through foods and beverages, the initial signs may seem like food poisoning within an estimate of 5 or 6 hours. People, who have ingested it, are most likely to experience unbearable abdominal pain.
The abdominal pain will be accompanied by vomiting and diarrhoea at times. Due to diarrhoea, the infected person will also become dehydrated; hence they must maintain their water levels.
More symptoms include blood in urine, intestinal bleeding, and seizures. Although ingesting ricin poisoning is less toxic than inhaling it, a sufficient amount and dose can cause death.
3. Ricin Poisoning by Inhaling
Inhaling Ricin is by far the most dangerous type of its poisoning. When Ricin is exposed through inhaled aerosol, it can easily affect numerous people in the surroundings. In a case with many people, they will experience the symptoms in about 7 to 8 hours.
People, who have happened to inhale the deadly poison, will face or go through symptoms such as high fever, puking, and severe coughing and congestion in the areas such as the throat and nose. In addition, these people will have breathing issues and a tight feeling in the chest. When exposed to a significantly long period, breathing difficulty can arise in 12 to 24 hours. If the affected person has a chest x-ray done, it might show excess fluid in the lungs.
Diagnosis of Ricin Poisoning
Once Ricin enters your body, it wrecks chaos in your immune system. Bodies of people who have been exposed to ricin poisoning show evident traces of the antibodies formed within two weeks following the exposure. Diagnosis of the condition may be made after the medical analysis of the body fluid or through a nasal swab. Unfortunately, this method of diagnosis isn’t available due to diagnosing tools not being clinically cleared for testing.
Treatment of Ricin Poisoning
Unfortunately, there isn’t a proper treatment plan or an antidote to recover from the poison’s effects. This is why one must take all the preventive measures necessary. If the poison somehow attacks a person, they should immediately seek medical help so that the toxin can be taken out or removed from their body.
Even though there are no definite solutions for the poison’s spread, there are ways through which each route of exposure is handled. Once you are confirmed that Ricin has poisoned you, seek medical help immediately. If you have ingested Ricin, it can lead to dehydration. Thus, the doctor will put you on IV fluids and control your blood pressure as it tends to rise. Your doctor may recommend pumping of the stomach if the ingestion is recent.
Ricin poison injected into a body can potentially harm your heart, liver, pancreas, and other vital organs. Such affected patients are needed to be constantly monitored and go through numerous tests. The fluid balance will be targeted by your doctor and hinder the inflammation of the organs. When the Ricin is inhaled, it causes damage to a cluster of people, which causes the same symptoms in them. Treating inhaled Ricin can involve chest x-rays to determine excess fluid in the lungs. Patients whose case is critical may also require the assistance of a ventilator. Your doctor can also give IV fluids to rehydrate.
Lastly, it is essential to understand that ricin poisoning can kill a person. It causes cell destruction, which can halt the significant functions of the organs, eventually leading to one’s death. If you are infected, kindly call your nearest health care facility or 911.