Activated charcoal is used in the emergency treatment of certain kinds of poisoning. It helps prevent the poison from being absorbed from the stomach into the body. Sometimes, several doses of activated charcoal are needed to treat severe poisoning. Ordinarily, this medicine is not effective and should not be used in poisoning if corrosive agents such as alkalis (lye) and strong acids, iron, boric acid, lithium, petroleum products (e.g., cleaning fluid, coal oil, fuel oil, gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner), or alcohols have been swallowed, since it will not prevent these poisons from being absorbed into the body.
Some activated charcoal products contain sorbitol. Sorbitol is a sweetener. It also works as a laxative, for the elimination of the poison from the body.Products that contain sorbitol should be given only under the direct supervision of a doctor because severe diarrhea and vomiting may result.
Activated charcoal has not been shown to be effective in relieving diarrhea and intestinal gas.
Activated charcoal may be available without a doctor’s prescription; however, before using this medicine, call a poison control center, your doctor, or an emergency room for advice.
Brand names includeActidose-Aqua, Aqueous Charcodote Adult, Aqueous Charcodote Pediatric,CharcoCaps, Charcoal, Charcodote, Charcodote Pediatric, Charcodote Tfs,Charcodote Tfs Pediatric, Di-Gon II, Diarrest, Donnagel, Donnagel-Mb, EZ-Char,Kao-Con, Kaodene NN, Kaolinpec, Kaopectate, Kaopek, Kerr Insta-Char,Parepectolin, Reese’s Charcoal, Requa Activated Charcoal.
Possible side effects
Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:
Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
New or worsening abdominal pain, or severe constipation
If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:
Dark urine, or urinating less often than usual
Dark or black stools
Nausea or vomiting
If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.