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Dirt - swallowing

Definition

This is poisoning from swallowing or eating dirt.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

There are no particular poisonous ingredients unless the dirt contains contaminants such as insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, parasites, and waste.

Where Found

  • Dirt

Symptoms

Swallowing dirt may cause constipation and intestinal obstruction, which results in stomach pain.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. 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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

The patient may not need to visit an emergency room. If the person goes to the hospital, treatment may include:

  • Medicines to treat the symptoms

Outlook (Prognosis)

Recovery is very likely unless the dirt contains something that can cause complications.  

Prevention

Teach children not to eat dirt, and have them wash their hands after being outside.

References

Weinberg A, Levin MJ. Infections: parasitic and mycotic. In: Hay WW Jr, Levin MJ, Sondheimer JM, Deterding RR, eds. Current Pediatric Diagnosis and Treatment. 19th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2009:chap 39.

Dent AE, Kazura JW. Strongyloidiasis (Strongyloides stercoralis). In: Kliegman RM, et al. eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 287.


Review Date: 10/16/2013
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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