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Drugs

Side Effects
Serious

Swelling or pain in stomach. If this symptom persists, call your doctor immediately.
Common

Black, tarry stools.
Less Common

Nausea, constipation. Notify your doctor if any common or less-common side effects persist.
Charcoal, Activated


Drug Class:
Antidote

Available OTC?: Yes

Available Generic?: Yes

Available In
Why Prescribed
How It Works
Range and Frequency
Onset of Effect
Duration of Action
Dietary Advice
Storage
Missed Dose
Stopping the Drug
Prolonged Use
Over 60
Driving and Hazardous Work
Alcohol
Pregnancy
Breast Feeding
Infants and Children
Special Concerns
Overdose Symptoms
What to Do
Drug Interactions
Food Interactions
Disease Interactions


Available In
Oral suspension, powder, tablets, capsules

Why Prescribed
Used as an emergency antidote for treatment of poisonings by most drugs and chemicals; also used to relieve diarrhea or excess gas.

How It Works
Activated charcoal prevents the absorption of certain kinds of drugs and chemicals by the body.

Range and Frequency
For treatment of poisoning-- Oral suspension and powder: Adults and teenagers: 25 to 100 grams (g). Children: 1 g per 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of body weight, or 25 to 50 g. Mix powder with water. Take 1 time only. For treatment of diarrhea-- Capsules: Adults and children age 3 and older: 520 mg every 30 to 60 minutes, as needed. Do not take more than 4.16 g per day. For treatment of excess gas-- Tablets and capsules: Adults and teenagers: 975 mg to 3.9 g, 3 times a day.

Onset of Effect
Immediate.

Duration of Action
Not applicable. Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body.

Dietary Advice
As an antidote: No special restrictions. To treat diarrhea: It is important to replace the fluid lost by your body and to eat a proper diet. During the first 24 hours, drink plenty of caffeine-free clear liquids like water, broth, ginger ale, and decaffeinated tea. During the second 24 hours you may eat bland foods such as applesauce, bread, crackers, and oatmeal. Avoid caffeine, fried or spicy foods, bran, candy, fruits, and vegetables. These may worsen your condition.

Storage
Store in a tightly sealed container away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Premixed suspension can be stored for up to 1 year. Do not allow the liquid form of activated charcoal to freeze.

Missed Dose
As an antidote: Not applicable. To treat diarrhea or excess gas: Take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume your regular dosage schedule. Do not double the next dose.

Stopping the Drug
As an antidote: Not applicable. To treat diarrhea or excess gas: Take as prescribed for the full treatment period. However, you may stop taking the drug if you are feeling better before the scheduled end of therapy.

Prolonged Use
As an antidote: Not applicable. To treat diarrhea: If diarrhea has not improved or if you have developed a fever after 2 days, call your doctor. To treat excess gas: If your condition has not improved after 3 to 4 days, call your doctor.

Over 60
No special problems are expected.

Driving and Hazardous Work
The use of activated charcoal should not impair your ability to perform such tasks safely.

Alcohol
No special precautions are necessary.

Pregnancy
Activated charcoal has not been reported to cause problems in an unborn child. Consult your doctor for specific advice.

Breast Feeding
No problems have been reported.

Infants and Children
May be used in infants and children only under strict supervision by a doctor.

Special Concerns
Call your doctor, emergency medical services (EMS), or the nearest poison control center before administering activated charcoal. Charcoal will not be effective if you have been poisoned by swallowing alkalies (lye), petroleum products, strong acids, ethyl or methyl alcohol, iron, boric acid, or lithium. Activated charcoal will not prevent these poisons from being absorbed by the body. If inducing vomiting with ipecac syrup, do so 1 to 2 hours before administering activated charcoal.

Overdose Symptoms
None expected.

What to Do
Emergency procedures not applicable.

Drug Interactions
Activated charcoal may decrease the absorption of any medicine taken within 2 hours of administration. Acetylcysteine and ipecac syrup can decrease the effectiveness of activated charcoal.

Food Interactions
Do not eat chocolate syrup, ice cream, or sherbet with activated charcoal. They will decrease the amount of poison the charcoal can absorb.

Disease Interactions
Caution is advised when taking activated charcoal if you also suffer from dysentery or dehydration.

Date Published: 04/13/2005
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