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The 5-minute toxicology consult

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    The 5-minute toxicology consult Edited by: richard c dart. (Pp 752; $69.95). 1999. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN: 0683302027.

    This is an exceptionally useful book with an odd title. The idea is that you can look up a problem—for example, poisoning by mercury—and read all you need to know about it in 5 minutes—really?! Well, not quite perhaps, but almost. The authors have achieved their objective by designing a standard layout for each topic and sticking to it. Information is presented in columns: then to the page and divided up by clear subheadings.

    The book is in four sections: the first “general approach” is only a few pages long; the second “patient presentations with toxicological causes"; the third “antidotes” and the fourth “chemical and biological agents”. The fourth section covers about 300 compounds or agents. In reviewing this book I looked up topics I thought I knew a good deal about and topics that I knew I didn't know enough about. In both cases I was pleased. Take gulf war syndrome or methaemoglobinaemia, or multiple chemical sensitivity. On each a spread of two pages is provided—and you can, just, read the two pages in 5 minutes. The information provided is focused and clear—the reader is given clear information on basics, diagnosis, treatment, follow up, and pitfalls. Recommended reading is also provided. I looked up treatment for metal fume fever: beautifully clear, telling you what to do and also what not to do, listed in “not recommended therapies”. The section on individual chemicals and agents is equally good. Interesting topics—such as gila monster, marijuana, and cane snail are included as well as the better known chemical toxicants.

    This is the best book I've seen for use in dealing with an enquiry over the telephone about a poisoning. Not as comprehensive, of course, as the books that simply list chemicals and provide a few details but wonderfully helpful in sorting out a patient management plan. At $ 69.95 and with 752 large pages this book is excellent value for money. It should be at the elbow of every occupational physician who is called upon to deal with poisoning and on the desk of every clinical toxicologist.

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