What Is It?
Activated Charcoal is a light, finely divided, tasteless, black powder that binds to a poison to keep the poison from hurting your body.
Why to Use It
Activated Charcoal has been found to be one of the treatments for many poisons. But it does NOT work on every poison so you should always call the Washington Poison Center, your physician, or pharmacist first.
Where to Find It
Activated Charcoal can be purchased at your local pharmacy.
Activated Charcoal tablets or capsules should NOT be used for poisons. The Washington Poison Center recommends using small bottles of dry powder to which you will add water. Activated Charcoal will sometimes come in bottles already mixed with water. NEVER use burnt toast, charred wood, or charcoal briquettes to treat poisons.
Who Can Administer It?
YOU CAN, once the Washington Poison Center or a physician has recommended administering Activated Charcoal; they will provide instructions on how to administer it based on the person’s weight. Be sure to tell the Poison Center if your bottle of Activated Charcoal contains sorbitol.
When To Use It
Only use the Activated Charcoal if you have been told to do so by the Washington Poison Center or by a physician. Only give to a child when they are alert and cooperative.
When Not To Use It
- Never force a person to drink activated charcoal
- Do not use if the person is not fully conscious
- Do not use if the person is coughing or choking a lot
- Do not use in children less than one year of age
What to Watch For
- As many as 60% of patients will vomit at least some of the charcoal—no one is certain as to why—but it does not need to be re-administered.
- You should expect to see dark charcoal stool within 2 days.
Always call the Washington Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 before administering Activated Charcoal or if you have questions.
Want to print a copy this information? We have Activated Charcoal in pdf format too.