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Aspirin Poisoning (cont.)

Aspirin Poisoning Diagnosis

The doctor will take a history and perform a physical examination to look for evidence of poisoning. The doctor will order laboratory tests to look for damage to organ systems that can be harmed by aspirin overdose and, depending on the timing, also to check for the level of aspirin in the bloodstream.

  • The initial assessment of all poison victims follows the principles of basic and advanced cardiac life support. The doctor will make sure the patient is able to breathe, and will check vital signs including body temperature. The doctor will check alertness by asking the patient to respond to questions. If the patient is unconscious, the doctor will give oxygen and perhaps use machines to help the patient breathe.
  • Blood will be taken for lab testing. One blood test will measure the amount of salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin, in the blood. Sometimes the blood level of salicylate can increase over time even though an individual has not taken any more aspirin. This may indicate the person has taken coated tablets or sustained-release tablets, which release salicylate into the bloodstream slowly.
  • The doctor will make treatment decisions based on the dose of active ingredient ingested, the time over which it was ingested, age, the symptoms, and acid-base status. Acid-base status is the balance of acid and base in the blood. Aspirin may change this balance quickly toward more acidic, so the doctor will monitor this to guide treatment.

Aspirin Poisoning Self-Care at Home

If a drug overdose is discovered or suspected, and the victim is unconscious, having convulsions, not breathing, or is otherwise seriously ill, call 911 immediately (or the local emergency phone number) for medical help.

If the person who took the drug is not having symptoms, do not wait to see if symptoms develop. Call the local poison control center immediately. It is a good idea to post the telephone number of the local poison control center near the phone. This information can be found at: American Association of Poison Control Centers. Or call (800) 222-1222 if you have a poisoning emergency.

Providing as much information as possible to the poison control center can help determine what the next course of action should be. These questions are not unique to aspirin poisoning, but are used for almost all cases of poisoning.

The poison control center, paramedics, and emergency department staff will want to know the following information:

  • What medication was taken? Try to locate the medication's container.
  • Precisely what is the medication that was taken and how much is left in the bottle?
  • How much of the medication was taken?
  • When was the medication taken?
  • Was the medication taken with alcohol or any other drugs or chemicals?
  • What is the person's age?
  • What symptoms are present?
  • Is the person conscious?
  • Is the person breathing?
  • What medical conditions does the person have?

Although ipecac syrup was used commonly in the past to make a patient vomit, it is rarely recommended today. It would not be suggested in aspirin poisoning due to the chance that the patient might develop altered mental status or convulsions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/17/2016
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Toxicity, Salicylate »

The use of salicylates dates back 2500 years to when Hippocrates recommended the use of willow bark to relieve the pain of childbirth.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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