Objective. Activated charcoal (AC) is recognized as the treatment of choice for gastrointestinal decontamination after many ingestions. AC use in the home has been limited by concerns that parents would not administer it properly and that children would refuse to take AC. Previous descriptions of home administration have reported mixed results.
Methods. This was an 18-month consecutive case series of all patients for whom AC administration was recommended in the home. Data collected included AC availability in the home and/or a local pharmacy, success in administration, amount administered, time after ingestion to AC administration, difficulties in administration, adverse effects, age and gender of patient, substance involved in poisoning, and medical outcome. All cases were followed for at least 3 days after the ingestion. Patients who initially had home AC recommendation but who ultimately were treated in the emergency department (ED) served as a comparison group.
Results. Home administration of AC was recommended in 138 cases. A total of 115 individuals (83%) were treated with AC in the home, with no failures to administer AC. Reasons for failure to manage at home were 1) mother preferred ED (8 cases), 2) could not locate AC (7 cases), 3) pharmacy closed for the night (6 cases) and 4) no home telephone for follow-up (2 cases). Time to AC administration after ingestion was a mean of 38 minutes (±18.3) for home treatment and 73 minutes (±18.1) for ED treatment. Ninety-five percent of home cases received AC in ≤60 minutes versus 33% for ED management. AC was in the home in 11 cases at the time of recommendation. The amount of AC administered was a mean of 12.1 g (standard deviation: 6.9) and a median of 12 g. Eight children (6.9%) who were treated at home vomited after AC versus 3 (13%) who received ED treatment. No aspirations or complications occurred.
Conclusion. AC can be administered successfully by the lay public in the home. Home use of AC significantly reduces the time to AC administration.
- Received May 14, 2001.
- Accepted July 3, 2001.
- American Academy of Pediatrics