Iron poisoning

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Iron poisoning develops if an individual, frequently a child ingests large amounts of pills that contain iron, usually vitamins. An acute case of iron poisoning typically involves children younger than age 6 years who ingest pediatric or adult vitamins that contain iron. These children might not be able or eager to tell what and how much is swallowed.

It is important to note that iron formulations are extensively used and obtainable without prescription and might be stored in bottles with or without seals that are child-proof.

What are the causes?

  • There are iron pills especially multivitamin tablets that appear as candy to children.
  • Deliberate overdose can occur among adults, but this is uncommon.
    Iron poisoning
    The indications of iron poisoning typically become evident in 6 hours after excessive intake of iron.

What are the indications of iron poisoning?

The indications of iron poisoning typically become evident in 6 hours after excessive intake of iron. It is important to note that iron corrodes the intestinal lining and directly irritates the stomach.

An individual suspected with iron poisoning can develop the following symptoms:

The vomit or stool of the child might be blood-streaked.


Once the doctor ensures that the child is normally breathing, the entire bowel is likely to be cleaned by drinking a potent laxative fluid.

In severe cases, it necessitates IV chelation therapy which is a series of IVs that include deferoxamine mesylate. This is a chemical that binds to iron in a cell and eliminated via urine.

  • Deferoxamine can be administered intravenously or injection, but the IV route is the preferred choice for easier adjustment of the dosage. Any change in the urine color and low blood pressure are the usual side effects of the treatment.
  • In most cases, children require no more than 24 hours of therapy.

Pumping of the stomach might be considered but generally beneficial if carried out in an hour of ingesting the pills. The insertion of a tube can lead to complications and many pills might not fit through the ports of the lavage tube if not fully disintegrated.

In case ingestion of other medications is possible, the doctor might provide the child with activated charcoal to drink. Activated charcoal could not bind with iron but can be useful in adsorbing other medications.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on iron poisoning is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage sudden medical emergencies including iron poisoning, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Edmonton, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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