Activated charcoal protocol

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This protocol is part of first aid protocol and should not be used outside of the accident procedure

This protocol is under review, and has not been accepted.

We are currently gathering feedback and editing this protocol, and there may be errors or bad wording. Please only use this protocol with caution, and if other organisations have definitive protocol, use that instead.

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Activated charcoal is first line treatment for most oral overdoses.

When to take activated charcoal

Activated charcoal should be used for treatment of any poisonings by mouth, EXCEPT the following substances, for which it MUST NOT be used:)[1]

  • Petroleum distillates (often found in cleaning products)
  • Corrosive substances (including bleach)
  • Alcohols (including those used in cleaning products and those intended for human consumption)
  • Malathion (a common insecticide)
  • Cyanides and metal salts including iron and lithium salts (often found in antipsychotic medications)

However, it must ONLY be used if the person is not comatose and is not likely to lose consciousness, to avoid the risk of choking.[2]

How to take activated charcoal

Red flagYou must call for backup, for example an ambulance in any instance of poisoning, including when you're using this protocol
  • You must ensure that transfer to definitive clinical care is happening as fast as possible - call an ambulance.
  • You must mix 50g of food or pharmaceutical grade activated charcoal with water, or a non caffeinated soft drink. Add enough liquid to make it drinkable.[2]
  • You must ensure that the poisoned person drinks all of this mixture.[2]
  1. BNF Poisoning, emergency treatment summary
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 BNF activated charcoal