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Face powder poisoning

Definition

Face powder poisoning occurs when someone swallows or breathes in this substance.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

The ingredients in face powder that can be harmful are:

  • Baking soda
  • Talcum powder
  • Many other types of powder

Where Found

Face powder contains these ingredients.

Symptoms

Symptoms of face powder poisoning include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Burning pain in the throat
  • Burns to the eye (if it gets in the eye)
  • Diarrhea (watery, bloody)
  • Rash
  • Vomiting

Home Care

Seek medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.

If the person swallowed face powder, give them water or milk right away, unless a provider tells you not to. DO NOT give anything to drink if the person has symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness.

If the person breathed in the powder, move them to fresh air right away.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.

The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth into the lungs and a breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Laxatives
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

If the poisoning is severe, the person may be admitted to the hospital.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well someone does depends on how much face powder they swallowed and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.

Face powders are not very poisonous, so recovery is very likely.

References

Blanc PD. Acute responses to toxic exposures. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al., eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 75.

Sue YJ, Pinkert H. Baby powder, borates, and camphor. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 99.

Zosel AE. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 143.


Review Date: 10/14/2015
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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