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Zinc poisoning

Definition

Zinc is a metal as well as an essential mineral. Your body needs zinc to function properly. If you take a multivitamin, chances are it has zinc in it. In this form, zinc is both necessary and relatively safe. See: Zinc in diet

Zinc however, can be mixed with other materials to make industrial items such as paint, dyes, and more. These combination substances can be particularly toxic.

This article discusses poisoning from zinc.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

Zinc

Where Found

  • Compounds used to make paint, rubber, dyes, wood preservatives, and ointments
  • Rust prevention coatings
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Zinc chloride
  • Zinc oxide (relatively nonharmful)
  • Zinc acetate
  • Zinc sulfate
  • Heated or burned galvanized metal (releases zinc fumes)

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Symptoms

  • Body pain
  • Burning sensations
  • Chills
  • Collapse
  • Convulsions
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • No urine output
  • Rash
  • Shock
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea
  • Yellow eyes or yellow skin

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help.

Immediately give the person milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the product (as well as the ingredients and strength if known)
  • When it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive:

  • Fluids (water or milk)
  • Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
  • Tube through the mouth or nose into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

Expectations (prognosis)

How well a patient does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a patient gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery. If symptoms are mild, the person will usually make a full recovery . If the poisoning is severe, death may occur up to a week after swallowing the poison.

References

Goldfrank LR, ed. Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. 8th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2006.


Review Date: 2/2/2011
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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