Antidotes can change the chemical nature of a poison by rendering it less toxic or preventing its absorption. Formaldehyde poisoning can be treated with ammonia to promote formation of hexam-ethylenetetramine; sodium formaldehyde sulfoxylate can convert mercuric ion to the less soluble metallic mercury; and sodium bicarbonate converts ferrous iron to ferrous carbonate, which is poorly absorbed. Chemical inactivation techniques seldom are used today, however, because valuable time may be lost, whereas emetics, activated charcoal, and gastric lavage are rapid and effective. The treatment of choice for ingestion of either acids or alkalis is dilution with water or milk. Similarly, burns produced by acid or alkali on the skin should be treated with copious amounts of water.
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