Faster Than a Speeding Doctor

Faster Than a Speeding Doctor

Activated charcoal is the best initial treatment for many (but not all) pediatric poisonings. However, many people have felt that parents should not be trusted to administer it at home. A study in the December 2001 issue of Pediatrics found that parents could do this safely and effectively – and much faster than doctors can!

Activated charcoal is most effective if given within 60 minutes of the poisoning – and sooner is even better. In this study, 95% of the children who received activated charcoal at home received it in 60 minutes or less, compared with children in the ER, where only 33% received activated charcoal in 60 minutes or less.

The average time to activated charcoal treatment at home was 38 minutes – compared with 73 minutes when activated charcoal was administered at the ER. I now recommend that parents have activated charcoal in the home, but that they should not administer it unless they speak to either the poison center or a pediatrician first.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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