Font Size

Activated Charcoal (cont.)

Emergency Home Care for Suspected Poisoning

If you or someone you know has swallowed or breathed a poison and you or they have signs or symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, pain, trouble breathing, seizure, confusion, or abnormal skin color, you must call either an ambulance, alert your local medical emergency system, or the National Poison Control Center in the United States (1-800-222-1222) for guidance (this number is routed to the poison control center that serves your area).

Place the telephone number (along with police, fire, and 911 or equivalent) near your home phones.

The best approach to poisoning is to identify the toxic substance and call your regional poison control center, or equivalent in your area, or go directly to the nearest Emergency Department.

  • Do not induce vomiting or give syrup of Ipecac.
    • Ipecac was once used to induce vomiting in poisoned patients for whom there was a chance to get the toxin out of the body. Several advisory bodies such as the American Association of Poison Control Centers and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended that Ipecac NOT be used and that it should not even be kept in the home. For more information on this subject go to:
  • A few poison centers recommend the use of activated charcoal in specific circumstances. Call your local poison control center for guidance before giving it to someone. In areas in which the poison center recommends activated charcoal, pharmacies will stock the product, and it can be purchased over-the-counter. In general, if the local poison center does not recommend its use at home, pharmacies will not stock it.
  • Milk products may decrease the ability of the charcoal to work. Do not attempt these types of home remedies. The best advice is to get the person to an Emergency Department.
  • If the person cannot be aroused, is vomiting, or has difficulty breathing, this is a 911 emergency. Bring the container of poison or medicine bottles, if known, to the Emergency Department.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


The National Poison Control Center. "What is Ipecac Syrup?"

The American Academy of Family Physicians. "Updated on the Management of Childhood Poisoning."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016

Must Read Articles Related to Activated Charcoal

Abdominal Pain (Adults)
Abdominal Pain in Adults Abdominal pain in adults can range from a mild stomach ache to severe pain. Examples of causes of abdominal pain in adults include learn more >>
Poison Proofing Your Home
Poison Proofing Your Home Poison proofing your home is one of the most important ways to protect your family and pets from an accidental learn more >>
Poisoning Poisoning can have serious signs or symptoms including
learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Activated Charcoal:

Activated Charcoal - Experience

Please describe your experience with activated charcoal.

Activated Charcoal - How Given

What type of poison did you experience, and did you have to have treatment at the hospital with activated charcoal.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Toxicity, Barbituate »

Barbiturates are the earliest class of sedative-hypnotic agents to be developed and were once extremely popular drugsof abuse.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary