Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is powdered charcoal that has no odor or flavor and is a common antidote used in hospitals for certain ingested poisons. It helps prevent the absorption of many poisons from the gastrointestinal tract but does not significantly impair the absorption of other poisons, such as alcohols, cyanides, iron and other metals, corrosives, and most types of pesticides.

While activated charcoal may be a useful addition to a household emergency kit as an antidote to accidental poisonings in small children, it should only be used when specified by a Poison Control Center or a health professional.

Activated charcoal can be purchased at pharmacies.

Last Updated: October 8, 2009

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Martin Gabica, MD - Family Medicine

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