Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal is a light, finely divided, tasteless, black powder that “ties-up” the poison and keeps the poison from hurting your body. Activated charcoal has been found to be the best first aid choice for many poisons. But it does NOT work on every poison. If you suspect poisoning, call 911 before before administering activated charcoal. Also, it cannot be used if the victim is not conscious or able to cooperate.

Activated charcoal can be purchased at your pharmacy. The Oklahoma Poison Control Center recommends buying the gram bottles of dry powder that must be mixed with water or soda pop. Some bottles already have water or sorbitol in them and sorbitol can cause diarrhea in children. NEVER use any other form of charcoal to treat poison.

You should administer activated charcoal only under the advisement of 911 personnel, your physician or the poison control center, because activated charcoal can worsen the situation with some poisons such as gasoline and acids. You will be given instructions on how to give the activated charcoal and how much to use based on the victim’s weight.

Additional precautions regarding the use of activated charcoal include the following:

  • Do not use if you have used ipecac within two hours. 

  • Do not use if person is not fully conscious. 

  • Do not use if person is coughing or choking.

  • Do not use in children less than 1 year of age.

  • Call 911 immediately if the victim becomes sick to the stomach and vomits or begins to cough.

  • You should expect to see a dark charcoal stool within two days of administering the activated charcoal. 

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