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Sarin gas is a substance originally created to work as an insecticide, but which has been used as a chemical weapon in war scenarios, such as in Japan or Syria, due to its potent action on the human body, which can cause death within 10 minutes.
When it enters the body, through breathing or through simple contact with the skin, Sarin gas prevents the functioning of the enzyme responsible for preventing the accumulation of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, which, although it plays a very important role in communication between neurons, when in excess, causes symptoms such as eye pain, chest tightness or weakness, for example.
Furthermore, excess acetylcholine causes neurons to die within seconds of exposure, a process that normally takes several years. Therefore, treatment with an antidote should be done as soon as possible to reduce the risk of death.
When in contact with the body, Sarin gas causes symptoms such as:
- Coryza and watery eyes;
- Small, contracted pupils;
- Eye pain and blurred vision;
- Excessive perspiration;
- Chest tightness and coughing;
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea;
- Headache, dizziness or confusion;
- Weakness in whole body;
- Heart rate change.
These symptoms can appear in a few seconds after breathing Sarin gas, or in a few minutes to hours, if contact occurs through the skin or by ingestion of the substance in water, for example.
In the most severe cases, in which there is a very prolonged contact, more intense effects such as fainting, convulsions, paralysis or respiratory arrest may occur.
What to do in case of exposure
When it is suspected that you have come into contact with Sarin gas, or there is a risk of being in a place affected by an attack with this gas, it is advisable to leave the area as soon as possible and go immediately to a place with fresh air. If possible, a higher location should be preferred, as Sarin gas is heavy and tends to be closer to the ground.
If there is contact with the liquid form of the chemical, it is recommended to remove all clothing, cutting shirts, since passing them over the head increases the risk of breathing the substance. In addition, you should wash your entire body with soap and water and apply water to your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes.
After these precautions, you should quickly go to the hospital or call for medical help, calling 192.
How the treatment is done
Treatment should be started as soon as possible and can be done with the use of two remedies that are an antidote to the substance:
- Pralidoxime: destroys the gas binding to receptors on neurons, ending their action;
- Atropine: prevents excess acetylcholine from binding to neuron receptors, counteracting the effect of the gas.
These two drugs can be given in the hospital directly into the vein, therefore, if there is a suspicion of exposure to Sarin gas, it is advisable to go to the hospital immediately.