Thursday, December 13, 2018

Featured FightWriter Cindy Emmet Smith: Headbutting

Happy holidays, fightwriters! On this round of FightWrite we are taking a question from fightwriter, Cindy Emmet Smith. She asks: I have a question for you about the headbutt
thing. If it is hard enough to hurt the other guy, doesn't it hurt both equally? Unless one is Klingon. I see this in movies and I wonder why one guy is knocked out and the other is fine.

That is a great question, Cindy. Also, deep respect for the Klingon mention.

 A headbutt is a legit strike and it is devastating. Anyone who doubts that need look no further than the sport of Lethwei. This Burmese form of bareknuckle fighting allows striking with all the limbs and, yes, headbutting. And, I have to tell ya, a well landed headbutt is tough to watch. 

So, why isn't the fighter throwing the headbutt knocked out? Well, for one, he's got a heck of a hard head. Whenever a part of the body is repeatedly roughed, the bones develop calcium deposits making the bones thicker. Also, the Lethwei fighter has proper technique. Yes, there's an actual technique for headbutting. I cover headbutting in my FightWrite book due out in June, 2019 with Writer's Digest. But, I'm gonna cover it now too!

How to Headbutt

First, find the horns of your forehead. If you draw a line up from the middles of your pupils to the top of your forehead, you'll find two places where the bones are a bit thicker. It will feel like two little knobs. I drew two arrows on the forehead of the x-ray here. You can see by the opaqueness that the bone is a little thicker in these areas. These are the horns of the forehead. You can also use the area between the horns as well as just above it. In my self defense class I teach using the horns. Using these bony knobs allows the striker to keep an eye on their opponent which allows them to aim a little better. Also, if you are trying to use the horns and are a little off with what you use to strike, you will still be striking with a safe area. 

In the instructional video you will see the instructor using other parts of the forehead and head which are absolutely correct. You're gonna love that video. Trust me.

Second, find your target. The best places to strike are the nose, eyes and cheeks of your opponent's face. Avoid the mouth as you could end up with teeth stuck in your forehead. My BJJ coach was a soccer goalie in high school. He jumped up to grab the ball just as another player went to head it. The two collided and my coach was knocked out. When he awoke his two front teeth were gone. They weren't lost though! He found them sticking out of the other guy's forehead. 

Three, deliver those horns! Despite what you might think, you don't rear your head back. Instead, you use your abdominal muscles which are far stronger than those of the neck. If possible, grab your opponent's shirt and pull them toward you as you strike. Grabbing the shoulders or back of the neck may signal what is coming and your opponent might tense up and brace for the strike. When delivering the strike, your chest, shoulders and neck should move as a single unit.  

Here's an instructional video from Master Wong. Oh...this guy...I love him. He's a really low key, shy, quiet fella. I hope one day he comes out of his shell. As he will tell you, if you deliver a headbutt incorrectly, your face will look so ugly, your mom won't even know you! 

Done incorrectly, a headbutt can, most likely, knock you out. I say most likely because biologically it makes sense. But all the videos I have seen of people knocking their own selves out with a headbutt are from unsanctioned fights or encounters with punching machines or pumpkins. In all of those cases, I have no idea if the people are drunk or compromised in some way. In the example of my coach being knocked out while he was a goalie, the collision was far more violent than a regular headbutt. So, I can't really use that as a good reference. BUT, can a character in your manuscript headbutt someone and knock himself out? Yes, it's plausible.  

There you have it, Cindy. Headbutting 101. Fightwriters, to read Cindy's work, just hop over to Amazon

In case you need a little inspiration for headbutting in your manuscript, here's two videos for ya. The first is of a goat knocking out a cow with a headbutt. Yes, really. The second is of a goat just headbutting a bunch of people. Y'all, the guy in the striped shirt is a kicking machine! For reals.

Until the next round at FightWrite™.net, get blood on your pages!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Fighting a Turkey

In honor of Thanksgiving I thought we'd look at how to fight a turkey. I get questions about fighting fantastic creatures "on the regular." My advice is always for the writer to find the closest real animal equivalent, if at all possible, and look at how that animal fights. If your fantastic creature or being has the appearance of a turkey, scoot closer to the screen. This post is for you!

We are considering wild turkeys here, not the domestic ones raised for food. Male wild turkeys, known as toms, stand about four feet tall, weigh upwards of twenty plus pounds and have a wing span somewhere around four and a half feet. They are big birds. 

Wild turkeys can fly in short bursts up to 55mph and can run about 25 miles an hour. They are also just brimming with confidence. It's fairly easy to find footage of them nonchalantly crossing the road and backing up traffic as well as menacing people. Here's a video of a postman fending some off. You will notice that they are quick to back away from the prod, but then also quick to get back to the business of intimidation.
What might a wild turkey do to you if it happens to catch you? Most likely it will jump up and try to beat you with its wings like a thug. It might also attempt to peck at you. It's not likely to use it's spurs, which is good because those babies are huge. A lady in one video I watched claims a turkey jumped up and drop kicked her. But, even then, it didn't use its spurs. I'm not saying they absolutely won't use their spurs. That just not what they generally do. If a turkey manages to "get" you, it won't kill you. It will humiliate you by smacking you around and might leave you with a few bloody pecks.

My father-in-law grew up out in the country and has spent a good bit of time in the woods hunting. I asked him how would he defend himself against a turkey. Without missing a beat he said, "go faster." Now, y'all saw how fast a turkey can run: 25mph. Usain Bolt runs 28mph. That doesn't leave much hope for the rest of us. Luckily, my father-in-law said that turkeys will not run you down. They will chase you just long enough to get you at a distance that is safe for them. They are prey animals after all.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the protagonist of our story runs into some turkeys that have a real vendetta against him. They are birds straight from Alfred Hitchcock's, The Birds!* The turkeys mean to run your protagonist down, beat him senseless and tear him to shreds. He has no shelter to run into. What does he do?

Well, first, he shouldn't climb a tree. Turkeys roost in trees.They don't generally attack there but we aren't talking about regular turkeys here. These are crazy attack turkeys! He also won't be able outrun the things. His best bet is to get a buffer between them, something the turkeys will have to run or fly around. The more impediments between the character and the foul fowl the better. I think running into the woods would be great. Yes, wild turkeys live in the woods and maneuver just fine in there. But, that's when they are choosing their own path. The leader of a chase has the advantage of choosing the course. The turkeys don't know that your character will quickly turn left or right.

Your character could also look around for thick brush to bury himself in. Even if the demon turkeys could get in there with him, they wouldn't be able to pimp slap the character with their wings and might have a harder time raising their talons or pecking. Getting under something is also an option for your poultry pursued person. The thing would need to be low enough to the ground that the turkeys could not follow.

Another option is to fight back. If your character is battling two birds, he should focus on one of the birds, fighting and  circling, while keeping bird two in his peripheral. That will be very hard since turkeys are fast. But, it might be doable. Battling three or more would be a nightmare. If you write that, please send me that scene.

In a one on one fight, your character could swing an item of clothing at the bird, something to make it not want to run at your character. If the turkey swoops up to escape the thing being swung, your character should continue slapping at it but also get himself out of he way of the turkey coming down. He could also throw rocks or handfuls of gravel at it. Even if he doesn't injure the bird, the bird will back away to protect it's head and eyes.

Your character's best bet is to get a heavy duty stick or club and go after the sucker's neck. Yes, a gun would be absolutely best but that's too easy. We want this to be tough.The reason I suggest aiming for the neck is you have a greater margin of error. If the turkey goes up or down, your character will still hit something.

In order to battle the turkey head on, keep your character still enough that the turkey runs directly at him. When its neck is within whacking distance, your character should swing for the fences. Or, if your character is so skilled, he could kick it, but I don't suggest that. A bird with talons will jump at you talons out. Let's assume these turkeys will do that. You might not want your character's leg in the way of that. Or...maybe you do...hmmmm. If your character uses a bat and the turkey flies up talons out, he could swing at the feet or jab the bird's chest to maintain distance.

And, there you have it folks, how to fight a wild turkey! I hope all of you in the U.S. have a great Thanksgiving. 

To all my readers around the world, I am incredibly thankful for you. When I began this blog two years ago, I never imagined I would have the readership that I do that spans the globe. May God bless you, keep you, cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace.

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages. Here's a compilation of funny turkey videos. Enjoy!

*The Birds, like all Hitchcock movies is amazing. It's about all the birds turning on humans. If you have every confronted a parking lot bird, the kind that demand fries, you know it's only a matter of time until Hitchcock's imagining is realized!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Redirecting Momentum - With Video

Ok, ok, I did a video already. Yeesh. You fightwriters are a pushy lot! Thankfully, the folks at Brazilian Top Team North Houston indulged me and let me film a bit of our *Meninas do Mãozinha self defense class.

This is a drill for the redirection of momentum. I repeat, this is only a drill. It teaches muscle memory and introduces a fighting fundamental which is nestled deep in Newton's First Law of Motion/Inertia. All fighting is physics, y'all. Sir Isaac Newton was a fight thug.  

Newton's First Law states, in part, that an object moving in a straight line wants to keep moving in a straight line. The faster that object is going, the easier it is to take it off course. Think about driving in a car. Turning the wheel just a bit to the right has a far greater impact when driving 65mph versus 6.5mph.

The concept is the same with strikes. The faster a strike comes at you, the easier it is take it off course. Yes, it's trickier to get to it before it hits you. But, if you can, just a small tap to the side of the approaching fist will direct the punch away from its mark.  

With that in mind, watch the video. I am not letting Emily throw me. She's not even pushing me hard. It looks like it but she's not. She's using the movement I am giving her and taking it off course.  

Without further ado, here's the video. Wait, there's a couple ados. Let me point out a few things. The block shown is an inside block because it directs the strike to the inside of the body. The great thing about an inside block is that it brings the offending hand over the thrower's body which helps to block a follow up punch. 

Also, I'd like to point out that my partner in the video, my teammate Emily, had NEVER done this whole drill. We had practiced the redirection a few times then I kinda put her on the spot and asked her to jump in. She's a BJJ fighter so the mount was a familiar concept but I hadn't said a word to her about trapping my hand until we were recording. That said, I get super happy with her for doing it correctly. I believe I say, "ta-da!"

And...roll footage...

First, let's look at how Emily held her hand for the block. I call it "waitress hand." Making that angle with the wrist keeps me from being able to slide up and over her hand to strike her. With the waitress hand she steers the strike away. With her other hand she redirects the source of the movement: my body. Again, she's hardly pushing at all. I start falling harder because I am moving faster. BTW, don't fall on your hands like I'm doing. You will hurt your wrist. If I had fallen any harder I would have tucked the arm and let the entire limb absorb the landing.

You also saw that she blocked with the back or top of the arm, whichever way you wanna look at it. Like I said in the video, it spares the more blood and tendon/nerve rich underside. If those tendons are severed, your character will not be able to make a fist which means he will not be able to hold a weapon. Never mind the issue of severing those veins/arteries. On that note, here's a post on the stages of bleeding out!

When Emily redirected my momentum, she turned toward me. That's important. It keeps her ready to address me again. By going to "mount" (that top position) and staying upright she immobilized my body and kept a better field of vision than if she had put her chest on me. Having my assailing arm extended kept me from taking the knife into my other hand. Also, pinning my wrist rather than forearm keep me from being able to do anything with the knife.

I said that in that position she had a lot of options. What were they? Well, she could have drawn my hand back which would have lifted my elbow and rolled me toward the hand to break my wrist. She could have landed hammer fist strikes to my temple. She could have gouged out my eye. But, best of all, she could have taken the knife for herself and just ended the matter. I know all of those seem extreme. But, if a malfeasant pulls a knife on your character and stabs at him, that villain aims to kill. The reaction should always fit the intention. Again:


In other words, even though an action does not kill your character, that was the intention! So your character better kill back first! That's what we go over in self defense as well. If somebody tries to kill you, kill back first! For the record, that is the best way to say that. "Kill back first!"

That's it for this round at A big obrigada to Emily and all the *Meninas do Mãozinha at Brazilian Top Team North Houston. I want to say another thank you to Haru Dojo Aikido from whom I learned this little gem of a drill. 

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages!

*Our coach, Daniel Galvão, has the nick name "Mãozinha." That is why our team is known as Team Mãozinha. Meninas do Mãozinha is Portuguese for "Mãozinha Girls." And "O gato tem a cerveja e as chaves do carro" is Portuguese for "the cat has the beer and the keys to the car," a phrase my Portuguese learning felt imperative for me to learn. Apparently cats drunk driving is an issue in Brazil. With that, I must attach a video of Toonces. It's kinda obligatory - é obrigatório!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Poison, Pt 3 - Flora & Fauna

If you are joining the show late, our first installment on poisoning explained some of the medical jargon you will encounter here. Part two covered various types of poison and their effects. In this, our third and final round on poisoning, we are going looking at flora and fauna. Now, there's a ton of poisonous plants and animals out there. Books have been written on them. I couldn't cover them all but here's a few. 

Poisonous Plants
Again, there's a ton of poisonous plants out there. This is just a small taste. (Don't taste these plants!)

Belladonna - Also know as deadly nightshade, belladonna impacts the nervous system causing dry
mouth, enlarged pupils, blurred vision, fever, tachycardia, inability to urinate, sweating, hallucinations, spasms, seizures and coma. Both the berries and leaves are poisonous. It is purported that as few as two berries can kill a child and ten to twenty can kill an adult.

Castor Bean - see ricin

Oleander - I looked through dozens of sites including the CDC and couldn't find an exact time on how quickly oleander affects the body. However, I often saw that medical attention must be expedient and includes gastric lavage. All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous even the smoke resulting from its burning. Symptoms of oleander poisoning are sweating, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, unconsciousness, respiratory paralysis, and, finally, death.

Rosary Pea - Abrin is the poison in the rosary pea. Exposure can be the result of inhalation, ingestion
Rosary Pea
or contact with the skin or eyes. Death from abrin poisoning could occur thirty-six to seventy-two hours after exposure.
    Symptoms of inhalation include respiratory distress, fever, cough, nausea, heavy sweating and pulmonary edema. The build up of fluid in the lungs could cause cyanosis. Finally, low blood pressure and respiratory failure could occur.
   Symptoms of ingestion are vomiting, bloody diarrhea (is there a grosser two word phrase? mercy!), severe dehydration and low blood pressure. Other possible symptoms may include hallucinations, seizures, and blood in the urine. Within several days, failure of the liver, spleen, and kidneys may occur.

Water hemlock
Water Hemlock - Water hemlock is dangerous to ingest or even apply to the skin. All parts of the plant are considered dangerous and can cause death in under twenty minutes. It is said that Socrates was sentenced to death by means of drinking hemlock. Symptoms of water hemlock poisoning are drooling, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, sweating, dizziness, abdominal pain, weakness, delirium, diarrhea, convulsions, heart problems, kidney failure and coma.

Poisonous Snakes

   Y'all, snakes are weapons. If the setting of your manuscript is rural or an area known for snakes, make use of them! Here are a few of the most poisonous snakes and the effects of their venom. Treatment of all bites by poisonous snakes should include professional medical care. One should never put ice on a bite or apply a tourniquet to a bitten limb. Also, an incision should not be made to the wound as it could cause further injury. And, I might as well say it: don't try to suck out the venom! I mean, really?
   Here's a video on snake bites that just makes me happy.  I don't know why they called an ambulance. The awesomeness and raw confidence of that second guy should have been enough to make the snake venom leave the body out of respect!

     There's a ton of poisonous snakes out there. I couldn't possibly cover them all. I chose three biggies. I know I have readers from all over the world. Feel free to tell me what snake is an issue where you live. It will help other writers out on what snake is found where and how much of a problem it is. Oh, by the way, if you've heard baby snakes are more deadly because they can't control their venom, that is incorrect. They are less venomous according to this guy whom I believe because he has an Australian accent and is playing with a dangerous snake WHILE filming!!!!


Coral Snakes - The venom of the coral snake is one of most poisonous snake venoms in the world, second only to the black mamba. And, there is very little antivenin available to combat the effects of their bite. In fact, as of May 2017, the only producer of antivenin had stopped its production.
   The good news is that not many people die of coral snake bites. The fangs of the snake just aren't terribly efficient at piercing skin and don't stand a chance against a decent pair of leather shoes. The bad new is that inefficiency isn't the same as inability.
   If your character is bitten by a coral snake that character is in for some trouble and probably won't have a clue. Symptoms of a coral snake bite don't manifest for at least twelve to eighteen hours after the strike. Symptoms include muscle weakness, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, inability to move eyelids (who knew that was a thing!), blurred vision, decreased oxygen levels, paralysis and respiratory arrest.
Corn and Coral Snakes
Coral snakes look a lot like corn snakes. The latter, however, is harmless. There's a rhyme that helps you identify the poisonous from the harmless and refers to the snake's coloration. "Red on black won't hurt Jack. Red on yellow will kill a fellow!"

Death Adder - Despite being known as Australia's top ambush predatory, the death adder is actually a "sit and wait" kind of predator. If you leave it alone, it will return the favor. (I only know that by reading, not experience.)
   Legend has it that Cleopatra used a death adder to kill herself. If that's true, she sure chose a nasty
Death Adder
way to go. Death adder venom can cause a loss of voluntary muscle control which can result in respiratory failure. Other symptoms of death adder envenomation include abdominal pain, headache, drowsiness and inability to control eye movement.

Rattlesnake (eastern and western diamondback, Mohave, timber) - Rattlesnake venom kills by causing cells of the body to hemorrhage and also by suppressing the nervous system.  
Western Diamondback
 The effects of a rattlesnake bite begin quickly, within seconds of being bitten. Medical help should be reached within thirty minutes of being struck. If left untreated, effects of the venom will increase within a period of two to three days and result in organ failure and death. Symptoms of a rattlesnake bite include sweating, numbness in the face or limbs, lightheadedness, excessive salivation, weakness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and difficulty breathing.

Well, that's it for our series on poison. What's the next round about? Well, that's up to you. Let me hear from you on "the Twitter" @carlahoch #fightwrite

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Poison, Pt 2 - Common Poisons

In our last round at, we looked at medical jargon associated with the effects of common poisons, venoms and toxins, which aren't the same thing. If you didn't know that, hop on over to that post and poke around.

I'm going to just touch on a few common poisons. For a longer list, buy my book Fight Write: Writing Battles, Brawls and Bouts. It will be out June 11 but is available for pre-sale. In it I cover some good ole' standby poisons, a few newbies, some poisonous plants, venomous snakes and the most recent poisoning statistics from the National Capital Poison Center. The book doesn't have a cover yet, just so you know. Don't think the cover is the words No Image Available! Also, the title may change. BUT, the good stuff on the inside won't be touched!

Anthrax - Anthrax is not a poison. Did you know that? It is actually an infection caused by the bacteria bacillus anthracis. So, when you hear on the news that a package was delivered containing a white powder identified as anthrax, that's not exactly correct. The powder will cause anthrax. It is not itself anthrax.
Bacillus anthracis sets up camp in the lymph nodes of the body. The toxin it creates causes hemorrhaging, edema, a drop in blood pressure and ultimately death.  
  The bacteria which causes anthrax can be delivered via an odorless mist, powder, liquid or paste. It can invade the body through the skin, lungs, injection or ingestion. Symptoms generally appear within a week of exposure. Once symptoms present, death can occur within three days.
  Symptoms of Anthrax:
  Cutaneous exposure - Exposure to the skin results in blisters or itchy bumps. Swelling can occur as well as an ulcer with a black center. It can be pretty gross.
  Inhalation - Once inhaled, the anthrax bacteria can cause fever, chills, confusion, dizziness, cough, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache, sweats, exhaustion, and body aches.
  Ingestion - Ingested, anthrax causes fever and chills, swelling of neck or glands in the neck, sore throat, hoarseness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, headache, stomach pain, fainting and abdominal swelling.
  Injection - Very similar to cutaneous exposure.
 Managed quickly, anthrax can be treated with antibiotics and antitoxin.

Arsenic - Arsenic is odorless, tasteless and gray, white or
silver in color. Symptoms of exposure by inhalation or ingestion can begin in as little as thirty minutes after exposure. Such symptoms include headache, drowsiness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythm, muscle cramps, paresthesia in fingers and toes. Death by arsenic poisoning often includes seizures and shock which lead to coma.

Cyanide - Cyanide comes in several forms. It its colorless, gaseous state it is known as hydrogen cyanide or cyanogen chloride. Its crystalline form is known as sodium cyanide or potassium cyanide. It is sometimes described as having a bitter almond smell which is not always detectable. The taste also have been described as acrid and burns the tongue.
  Cyanide makes the body unable to utilize oxygen. And, a little goes a long way. A person who weights 160lbs (73kg) who ingests .5 grams of potassium cyanide has a 90% mortality rate. That is about 1/3 tsp. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning include weakness, confusion, extreme lethargy, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal pain, seizures and coma. It is a completely agonizing way to die. Cyanide poisoning can be treated with a cyanide antidote kit.

Fentanyl - Fentanyl is a opioid analgesic that is almost one hundred times stronger than morphine and ten times stronger than heroine. Yes, really. A thirty milligram dose of heroine has the same effect as a three milligram dose of fentanyl. Both of those doses are high enough to kill an adult. The more you read about this drug, the scarier it is. 
   Symptoms of overdose include pinpoint pupils, muscle weakness, dizziness, confusion, extreme sleepiness, loss of consciousness, dangerously slowed heart rate, cessation of breathing and cyanosis of nails and lips. Fentanyl kills by depressing the body so much that the victim ceases to breathe and suffocates.
  The drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is often used to treat an overdose of Fentanyl. Opiate inhibitor drugs such as this bind to opiate receptors in the body to inhibit, revers or block the effects of the opiates. The need for opiate inhibitors has become so widespread they are often carried by paramedics. 

Ricin - If you are a fan of Breaking Bad you have heard of ricin. The main character, chemist Walter White, used it twice because he said that it was difficult to detect in the body. He was right. The writers of Breaking Bad always did their homework!
  According to the CDC, there are no specific clinically validated assays for detection of ricin that can be performed by hospitals laboratories. There are no methods available for the detection of ricin in bodily fluids. Potential tests would be used more for confirmation of the presence of ricin rather than a diagnosis of it. In other words, you have to go looking for it specifically. It is identified in an autopsy through DNA amplification or antibodies essay.
  Ricin works by invading cells and inhibiting them from creating the protein they need to survive. Depending on the type and level of exposure, death can occur within three days. Ricin can be inhaled or inhaled. It will not absorb in the skin. However, if on the skin it can be transferred to the eyes or mouth.
    Symptoms of ricin inhalation include difficulty breathing, fever, cough, nausea, tightness in chest, sweating, pulmonary edema, cyanosis, low blood pressure and, finally, respiratory distress.
   Ingestion of ricin can cause vomiting and diarrhea both of which would likely be bloody. (Mercy!) Blood could also be in the urine and seizure and organ failure could occur.

Ok, one more. This post is getting too long!

Strychnine - Strychnine is a favored poison in classic literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and H. G. Wells all utilized it in their work. Norman Bates also used it to kill his mother in the move Psycho. If you've not seen that movie, sorry to spoil it for you.  
   Death by strychnine is dramatic and as the first symptoms
manifest, the victim is conscious and aware that something is going very wrong. Symptoms can begin in as little as fifteen minutes and include agitation, fear, restlessness, painful muscle spasms, uncontrollable arching of neck and back, rigid arms and legs, tightness in jaw and difficulty breathing. Death by strychnine is generally due to brain damage, respiratory failure or cardiac arrest.

In our last round, Poison, Pt 1, we looked at the best poisoning scene ever in The Princess Bride. First, sorry to say, but iocane poison ain't a thing. And, as well, building up an immunity to a poison ain't a thing either. Just ask one of my favorite nerds, Kyle Hill.

In our next round, we will look at a few poisonous plants and venomous critters. Until then, get blood on your pages!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Poison, Pt 1, Medical Jargon

In the post, How Women Kill, we saw that women are sixtimes more likely than a man to kill with poison, not Poison, the 80s hair band featured here. I had to post that pic. How could I not? Look at them! They're like something aliens would keep as pets! Aaah, the 80s.

But, I digress. As often as poison is used to incapacitate folks in literature and real life, I thought we should discuss it a bit. We will look at some of the most common poisons, toxins and venoms and what they do to the human body. For the purposes of this post, I will sum them all up with the word, "poison."

Before we jump too deep here, let's look at a few medical terms that are often encountered when examining and writing about the symptoms and treatment of poisoning.  I ran into these words during my research and you might as well. Remember, using technical terms in your work can take your reader out of the story. Be sure that you show the definition of whatever medical jargon you use. Don't kill your reader with "jargon-monoxide" poisoning. :) I didn't make that phrase up. I wish I had!

Ok, here we go:

Toxins vs Poisons vs Venoms - We sometimes use these words interchangeably but they are not the same. A toxin is a biologically produced chemical that produces an immune response in the body. Both poisons and venoms can be toxic but poisons and venoms differ from each other. Poison is secreted by animals such as poison frogs. A venom is injected by an animal. The site describes it best: if you bite it and you die, it's poison. If it bites you and you die, it's venom.

Antibody - An antibody is a blood protein produced in response to a foreign or toxic substance in the body.

Antitoxin - An antibody used to counteract the effects of a toxin/poison.

Antivenin - Fist of all, did you know it's "antivenin" and not "antivenom?" The latter is actually two words: anti venom. Antivenin is a blood serum containing antibodies that counteract the poison/toxin delivered by animal life such as spiders, scorpions and snakes.

Arthralgia - Pain in the joints is arthralgia.

Blood poisoning - This is not actually poisoning. Don't confuse it with such. Septicemia aka blood poisoning occurs when bacterial infection from elsewhere in the body enters the blood stream. You can't poison a character and give them blood poisoning.

Bradycardia - A slow heart beat is bradycardia. If it happens a bunch of times it is bradybunchcardia. ;)  

Charcoal - When poison is ingested, the protocol of care may be putting activated charcoal in the stomach. The charcoal absorbs liquid contents of the stomach.

Cutaneous - Cutaneous relates to the skin.

Cyanosis - Like the color cyan, cyanosis refers to a bluish color in the skin. It is a result of low oxygen levels in the blood.

Diplopia - Diplopia is blurred vision not a type of dinosaur, which is totally what I thought it was. So help me, I saw one in Jurassic Park!

Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation - This is a condition in which small clots of blood form in the bloodstream. I don't know about y'all, but the word "clot" just grosses me out.

Emetic - Something that makes you vomit is an emetic. On that note, nauseated is a verb. Nauseas is an adjective. For example, the thought of watching Mama Mia nauseates me. (Sorry, it's true.) If I watch it, I am sure to become nauseas. (For the record, I love ABBA.)

Encephalopathy - A disease in which a function of the brain is compromised by an agent or condition like a viral infection or toxin.

Gastric Lavage - Pumping out the contents of the stomach is knowns as gastric lavage. Sounds like a fancy treatment at a holistic spa. But if one is offered to you, do not add it to your spa experience!

Heart Arrhythmia - Any irregularity in heart beat is considered arrhythmia. Symptoms include fluttering in the chest, racing heartbeat, slow heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, perspiration, faintness or fainting.

Hypotension - Low blood pressure is hypotension.

Hypertension - High blood pressure is hypertension.

Intubation - Insertion of a tube in the body to aid in breathing is intubation.

Metabolic Acidosis / Acidemia - When the body becomes too acidic, acidemia occurs. Symptoms include confusion, headache, sleepiness, loss of consciousness, coma, shortness of breath, coughing, muscular weakness, seizures, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting. 

Myalgia - This is a fancy word for muscle pain. It also sounds like something a doctor would say while swearing. "Oh yeah? Well, you can kiss myalgia!"

Myoclonus - Spasmodic and jerky contractions of muscle groups are known as myoclonus.

Opioid - Because opioid use / abuse is more prevalent, and I will be including fentanyl in another post, I wanted to explain exactly what an opioid does. An opioid is analgesic (pain reliever) that binds one or more opioid receptors in the brain. They block pain, slow breathing, calm the person in pain and act as an anti-depressant. The body produces a natural type of opiate on its own. However, it does not produce enough to combat chronic pain. Nor does it produce an amount that causes addiction. Prescription opiates are incredibly addictive. You brain actually learns to want synthetic opiates.

Paresthesia - This is a tingling, pin and needles sensation caused by damage to peripheral nerves. It's kind of like the feeling you get when your hand or foot falls asleep.

Pulmonary Edema - Fluid in the lungs in pulmonary edema.

Syncope - A temporary loss of consciousness caused by a sudden fall in blood pressure is syncope. It is also a word that sounds like "sink of pee," which reminds me of the time one of my very young children peed in the bathroom sink as an April Fool's joke. And, they did so in May. Their thinking was that it was an even bigger April Fool's joke since it happened long after you'd expect it. 

Tachycardia - A racing heart beat is tachycardia.

Toxicology - The branch of science concerned with the nature, detection and effects of poison.

Toxicology Report - Issued in forensic toxicology testing, the toxicology report states what sort of toxin as well as the amount of it was found in a body post mortem.

In our next post, we will look as a few poisons and their effects on the body. Now, I leave you will one of the best poisoning scenes ever. In Poison, Pt 2, we'll look a little closer at this scene and the dreadful iocane powder. Until the next round at, get blood on your pages! Oh, also, NEVER GO AGAINST A SICILIAN WHEN DEATH IS ON THE LINE! Or dessert. My best friend is a Sicilian. Trust me on the dessert thing.