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Aspirin Poisoning

Aspirin Poisoning Symptoms continued...

Later signs of aspirin poisoning, or signs of more significant poisoning, include drowsiness or confusion, bizarre behavior, unsteady walking, and coma.

The abnormal breathing caused by aspirin poisoning is usually rapid and deep. Vomiting may occur 3-8 hours after taking too much aspirin. Serious dehydration may occur from hyperventilation, vomiting, and fever.

Aspirin poisoning signs and symptoms can range from minor to severe.

  • Mild to moderate: Deep and rapid breathing (hyperpnea) sometimes with lethargy (abnormal drowsiness)
  • Moderate: Severe deep and rapid breathing, prominent nervous system disturbances, such as marked lethargy or excitability, but no coma or convulsions
  • Severe: Severe deep and rapid breathing, coma, sometimes with convulsions

When to Seek Medical Care

If minor symptoms of aspirin overdose are experienced, call a doctor to see if the medication should be stopped or the dosage reduced. Minor symptoms include ringing in the ears, dry mouth, and dizziness.

For all other symptoms, call 911 (or the local emergency phone number) immediately. Also consider going directly to a hospital's emergency department for evaluation. Serious symptoms include the following:

Get emergency help immediately if any of the following symptoms occur with aspirin overdose:

  • Any hearing loss

  • Any abnormal bleeding

  • Confusion

  • Convulsions (seizures)

  • Dizziness (severe)

  • Drowsiness (severe)

  • Excitement or nervousness (severe)

  • Fast or deep breathing

  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there)

  • Headache (severe or continuing)

  • Increased sweating

  • Nausea or vomiting (severe or continuing)

  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears (continuing)

  • Sweating

  • Unexplained fever

  • Unusual thirst

  • Vision problems

Exams and Tests

The doctor will take a history and perform a physical examination to look for evidence of poisoning. The doctor will order laboratory tests to look for damage to organ systems that can be harmed by aspirin overdose and, depending on the timing, also to check for the level of aspirin in the bloodstream.

  • The initial assessment of all poison victims follows the principles of basic and advanced cardiac life support. The doctor will make sure you are able to breathe and will check vital signs including body temperature. The doctor will check alertness by asking you to respond to questions. If you are unconscious, the doctor will give oxygen and perhaps use machines to help you breathe.
  • Blood will be taken for lab testing. One blood test will measure the amount of salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin, in your blood. Sometimes the blood level of salicylate can increase over time even though an individual has not taken any more aspirin. This may indicate the person has taken coated tablets or sustained-release tablets, which release salicylate into the bloodstream slowly.
  • The doctor will make treatment decisions based on the dose of active ingredient ingested, the time over which it was ingested, your age, the symptoms you are experiencing, and your acid-base status. Acid-base status is the balance of acid and base in the blood. Aspirin may change this balance quickly, so the doctor will monitor this to guide treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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