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Iron Poisoning (cont.)

Iron Poisoning in Children Diagnosis

A doctor diagnoses iron poisoning by observing the child. A normal physical exam and no symptoms for 6 hours indicates that the child experienced either little poisoning or did not eat any iron-containing substances.

If you can, tell the doctor the type of iron supplement and the number of tablets swallowed.

The doctor order blood tests for the child to determine these levels:

The doctor may perform an X-ray of the child's abdomen to confirm there are iron pills in the gastrointestinal tract, although sometimes they are there and not seen.

Laboratory and imaging tests are not usually sensitive enough to detect poisoning. Some tests are also too slow to affect the diagnosis and management of iron poisoning.

Iron Poisoning in Children Treatment

Once the doctor makes sure the child is breathing normally, the child likely will have his or her whole bowel cleaned by drinking a strong laxative fluid.

Severe poisonings will require IV chelation therapy - a series of IVs containing deferoxamine mesylate (Desferal), a chemical that binds to iron in a cell and is then excreted in urine.

  • Deferoxamine can be administered by IV or injection, but the IV route is preferred for easier dose adjustment. A change in urine color (to a red-orange) and low blood pressure are common side effects with deferoxamine treatment.
  • Usually children require no more than 24 hours of therapy.

Orogastric lavage, or pumping of the stomach, can be considered, but it is generally only helpful if performed within 1 hour of swallowing the pills. Insertion of the tube can cause complications, and many pills may not fit through the ports of a lavage tube if they are not disintegrated.

If ingestion of other medications is suspected, the physician may give the child activated charcoal to drink. Activated charcoal does not bind to iron but may be useful in adsorbing other medications.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017
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