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Aspirin Poisoning

Medical Treatment

Doctors may uses gastric lavage, or pumping out the stomach contents, to try to prevent further absorption of the aspirin into the body. Dialysis is also sometimes used to reduce the amount of salicylate in the body. .

Medications

Activated charcoal: To prevent more absorption, the doctor may give activated charcoal to absorb the salicylate from the stomach. A laxative may be given with the activated charcoal to move the mixture through the gastrointestinal system more rapidly. People who have been severely poisoned may be given repeated doses of activated charcoal.

IV fluids: Dehydration occurs early in aspirin poisoning. To correct dehydration, the doctor will start an IV to correct this imbalance. The doctor will also work to correct imbalances in the body's blood chemistries.

Alkaline diuresis: This is a way to reduce the amount of salicylate in the body. Alkaline diuresis is the process of giving a person who has been poisoned compounds that alter the chemistry of the blood and urine in a way that allows the kidneys to remove more salicylate. Specifically, sodium bicarbonate is given via IV to make the blood and urine less acidic (more alkaline). This encourages the kidneys to capture more salicylate that can leave the body through the urine. Sometimes, other compounds, such as potassium, also have to be given to help with this process.

Other Therapy

The emergency physician may have to perform other procedures or give other medications as supportive care in the case of a dangerous aspirin overdose. These actions may include the following: 

  • Placing a breathing tube (intubation) and assisting breathing with a ventilator for a person who is agitated or in a coma, cannot protect his or her own airway, or needs mechanical breathing
  • Placing of a catheter into the bladder to monitor urine output and frequently check the acidity (pH) of the urine
  • Giving other medicines as needed to treat agitation, convulsions (seizures), or other complications of aspirin poisoning

Next Steps

  • A person with serious symptoms may be admitted to an intensive care unit. 
  • If the overdose was intentional, psychiatric services should be provided.
  • A person with minor symptoms such as ringing in the ears or nausea may be admitted to the hospital for further observation.

The following people, will be admitted to the hospital regardless of salicylate levels:

  • Infants and elderly persons
  • People with long-term salicylism
  • People who ingested sustained-release products

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