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Iron overdose

Definition

Iron is a mineral found in many over-the-counter supplements. Iron overdose occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally takes more than the normal or recommended amount of this medication.

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.

Alternative Names

Ferrous sulfate overdose; Ferrous gluconate overdose; Ferrous fumarate overdose

Poisonous Ingredient

Iron

Where Found

Iron is an ingredient in many mineral and vitamin supplements. Iron supplements are also sold by themselves. Types include:

  • Ferrous sulfate (Feosol, Slow Fe)
  • Ferrous gluconate (Fergon)
  • Ferrous fumarate (Femiron, Feostat)

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

Symptoms

Note: Symptoms may go away in a few hours, then return again after 1 day or later.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed
  • If the medication was prescribed for the patient

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:

  • Blood tests to check iron levels
  • Endoscopy -- camera and tube down the throat to see the esophagus and the stomach and remove pills
  • Tube through mouth into the stomach to empty the stomach (gastric lavage)
  • X-ray to make sure all iron tablets are gone from the stomach
  • Medication to help remove iron from the body (deferoxamine)

Expectations (prognosis)

There is a good chance of recovery if you have no symptoms 48 hours after swallowing the iron. However, some people have died up to a week after an iron overdose. The more quickly you receive treatment, the better the chance for survival.

Iron overdose can be extremely severe in children. Children may sometimes eat large amounts of iron pills because they look like candy. Many manufacturers have changed their pills so they no longer look like candy.

References

Liebelt EL. Iron. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 72.


Review Date: 2/6/2012
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. 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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