Syrup of Ipecac

Syrup of Ipecac is a product that is derived from a plant extract. It is available at your pharmacy, can be purchased without a prescription and has a shelf life of several years when stored at room temperature. When swallowed, the ipecac causes stimulation of the central nervous system and stomach lining, resulting in vomiting, usually within about 20 minutes.

The benefit of syrup of ipecac is to help remove certain types of poisons that have been ingested from the stomach before they can be absorbed through the stomach lining and into the bloodstream. Caution is necessary in the use of ipecac, because vomiting is not safe in certain situations. Also ipecac may produce mild side effects such as prolonged vomiting, drowsiness and diarrhea. Chronic misuse of syrup of ipecac (such as use on a daily basis in persons with eating disorders) may cause very dangerous reactions, such as irregular heart rhythms.

How to use syrup of ipecac

Everyone should keep a bottle of syrup of ipecac in the home, but should only use it under the advice of 911 personnel, a physician or a poison control center. It's a good idea to put the number for poison control somewhere on the bottle or attached to it to help you remember during a home crisis. If you suspect a life- or limb-threatening illness, call 911 for emergency medical treatment.

There are definitely times when syrup of ipecac should not be used:

  • When a victim is drowsy or has lost consciousness, or has taken a poison that will cause drowsiness or loss of consciousness in a short period of time.

  • When the poison is a corrosive product, like an acid or base, such as lye, heavy-duty cleaner, oven cleaner, drain opener or toilet bowl cleaner.

  • When the poison is a petroleum product, such as gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid, furniture polish or lamp oil.

  • When the substance swallowed is non-poisonous for the child, as advised by 911 personnel, the poison control center or your physician.

  • When you have been advised by 911 personnel or the poison control center not to take syrup of ipecac.

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