Drug or Toxin Ingestion, Child

Your child has taken a medicine or product that was:

  • Not meant for him or her.

  • Taken in large enough amounts to possibly be dangerous.

  • Taken accidentally or as a recreational drug.

It is felt at this time that it is safe for him or her to go home and be observed.


Symptoms depend on the material ingested, but a few common ingestions are:

  • Methyl alcohol. This causes increased acid in the blood, vision loss, and mental status changes.

  • Aspirin (salicylates). This causes vomiting and increased acid in the blood in the preschool age group.

  • Iron tablets. This causes vomiting, possibly intestinal bleeding, diarrhea, mental status changes, shock (a fall in blood pressure), and can be life-threatening.

  • Lead. This causes vomiting, constipation, belly pain, and mental status changes.

  • Street drugs. Symptoms vary with the drug taken.

  • Materials taken in suicide attempts.


The diagnosis is usually made from the history, physical findings, and lab results. In many cases, your caregiver can identify the drug or substance in the child's blood or urine.


Treatment depends on the ingestion. Many substances can be partially treated by forced vomiting. Some drugs can be removed by:

  • Causing a more rapid movement through the bowel.

  • Hemodialysis. This is a method for cleaning the blood.

  • Peritoneal dialysis. This is a method for cleaning the blood that involves circulation through the abdomen.

  • Often, failure of important organs such as the liver or kidney must be treated as well.

Careful attention will be paid to your child's airway, breathing, and circulation. Your child may need treatment with fluid and salts in the blood (electrolytes) for acidosis, alkalosis, or shock. These are conditions that can occur in drug or toxin ingestions.

When you come upon a child or other person with suspected toxic ingestion, contact your local emergency services (911 in U.S.), a poison center, or a caregiver immediately. Getting help right away is important.


  • Your child continues feeling sick to his or her stomach (nauseous) and vomiting.

  • There are problems that seem to be getting worse.

  • There are behavioral changes in your child.

Seek immediate medical care even after calling a poison center.