IPECAC Overview Information
Ipecac is a plant. It is used to make medicine. Ipecac syrup is available both as a nonprescription product and as an FDA-approved prescription product.
Ipecac is taken by mouth to cause vomiting after suspected poisoning. It is also used to treat bronchitis associated with croup in children, a severe kind of diarrhea (amoebic dysentery), and cancer. Ipecac is also used as an expectorant to thin mucous and make coughing easier. Small doses are used to improve appetite.
Health professionals sometimes give ipecac by IV (intravenously) for hepatitis and pockets of infection (abscesses).
How does it work?
Ipecac contains chemicals that irritate the digestive tract and trigger the brain to cause vomiting.
Possibly Effective for:
- Causing vomiting (emetic).
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Poisoning. Taking syrup of ipecac causes vomiting. This might help remove up to 54% of ingested poison when taken within 10 minutes of poisoning. However, taking ipecac 90 minutes after poisoning does not seem to be effective. Also, ipecac’s effectiveness in preventing pediatric deaths with routine use at home has never been proven. In 1983 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all households keep a 1-ounce bottle of syrup of ipecac at home. Ipecac could then be used on the advice of a physician, emergency department, or poison control center to cause vomiting. However, this recommendation has been reversed. Ipecac does not seem to improve outcomes when given after poisonings to people who show minimal symptoms. Also, taking ipecac before other poison-specific antidotes that are taken by mouth might decrease the effects of these other antidotes and might increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia.
- Thinning mucous to make coughing easier.
- Bronchitis associated with croup.
- Amoebic dysentery.
- Loss of appetite.
- Other conditions.
IPECAC Side Effects & Safety
Ipecac is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth and used for a short time. It can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach irritation, dizziness, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and a fast heartbeat.
Ipecac is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when allowed to touch the skin or when inhaled. Ipecac contains emetine, with can irritate the skin and respiratory tract.
Ipecac is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth long-term or in large amounts, as well as when injected at a dose of more than 1 gram. Misuse of ipecac can lead to serious poisoning, heart damage, and death. Signs of poisoning include difficulty breathing, digestive tract problems, abnormal heart rates, blood in the urine, convulsions, shock, coma, and death.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Children: Ipecac is LIKELY SAFE for children when used appropriately as a prescription product to induce vomiting. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to keep a 1-ounce bottle of syrup of ipecac at home has recently been reversed. The new statement reads, “Syrup of ipecac should no longer be routinely used as a poison treatment intervention in the home.” The thinking is that keeping ipecac at home hasn’t been proven to save lives. Talk with your healthcare provider or poison control center about how to use ipecac correctly in cases of poisoning in children.
Ipecac is UNSAFE when used in high doses or in children under the age of one year. Children are more sensitive than adults to the side effects of ipecac. Misuse of ipecac can lead to serious poisoning, heart damage, and death. Signs of poisoning include difficulty breathing, digestive tract problems, abnormal heart rates, blood in the urine, convulsions, shock, coma, and death.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is LIKELY UNSAFE to use ipecac if you are pregnant. It might stimulate the uterus and cause a miscarriage. Not enough is known about the safety of using ipecac if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Unconsciousness or certain kinds of poisonings: Ipecac should not be used in people who are unconscious or have been poisoned with certain chemicals including corrosives, petroleum products, strychnine, and others. Talk to your healthcare provider or poison control center about whether ipecac is appropriate to use in each case of suspected poisoning. If ipecac is used incorrectly, serious complications can arise including damage of the esophagus, pneumonia, and convulsions.
Digestive tract problems including ulcers, infections, or Crohn's disease: Ipecac can irritate the digestive tract. Don’t use it if you have one of these conditions.
Heart disease: Ipecac can affect the heart. Don’t use it if you have a heart condition.
Major Interaction Do not take this combination
- Activated charcoal interacts with IPECAC
Activated charcoal can bind up syrup of ipecac in the stomach. This decreases the effectiveness of syrup of ipecac.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- To cause vomiting after suspected poisoning: 15 mL ipecac syrup followed by 1-2 glasses of water. This dose may be repeated once in 20 minutes if vomiting does not occur. Before using ipecac syrup to treat poisoning, call a poison control hotline for advice. Ipecac syrup is available both as a nonprescription product and as an FDA-approved prescription product.