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Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

activated charcoal

Pronunciation: CHAR coal

Brand: Actidose-Aqua, Charcocaps, Char-Flo Aqueous Base, EZChar, Insta-Char, Optimum Charcoal

What is the most important information I should know about activated charcoal?

Follow all directions on the product label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.

What is activated charcoal?

Common charcoal is made from wood, coconut shell, peat, coal, or petroleum. "Activated charcoal" is a processed form of common charcoal that contains pores that can trap other chemicals and prevent them from being absorbed by the body.

Activated charcoal is used to treat certain types of chemical poisonings.

Activated charcoal has also been used in alternative medicine as an aid in treating gas and indigestion.

It is not certain whether activated charcoal is effective in treating any medical condition. Medicinal use of this product has not been approved by the FDA. Activated charcoal should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.

Activated charcoal is often sold as an herbal supplement. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.

Activated charcoal may also be used for purposes not listed in this product guide.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking activated charcoal?

Do not use this product without medical advice to treat poisoning. Activated charcoal may cause more serious problems if used to treat poisoning caused by certain chemicals such as turpentine, lye, strong acids, kerosene, gasoline, paint thinner, cleaning fluid, or furniture polish.

Ask a doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider if it is safe for you to use this product for other conditions if you have ever had:

  • slow digestion; or
  • a blockage in your digestive tract (stomach or intestines).

Ask a doctor before using this product if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If possible during an emergency, tell your medical caregivers if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.

How should I take activated charcoal?

Call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 before using activated charcoal to treat a poisoning.

When considering the use of activated charcoal, seek the advice of your doctor. You may also consider consulting a practitioner who is trained in the use of herbal/health supplements.

If you choose to use activated charcoal, use it as directed on the package or as directed by your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider. Do not use more of this product than is recommended on the label.

Shake the oral suspension (liquid). Measure a dose with the supplied measuring device (not a kitchen spoon).

Swallow the tablet or capsule whole and do not crush, chew, break, or open it.

The granules or powder must be mixed with liquid before you swallow them.

To treat a poisoning in a person who has been given ipecac syrup to cause vomiting, wait until the person has vomited before given activated charcoal.

Do not attempt to treat poisoning in a person who is having seizures or is not fully conscious. Seek emergency medical help right away.

To treat indigestion or gas, activated charcoal is usually taken right before meals or after eating foods that might cause stomach discomfort. Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Activated charcoal is used when needed. If you are on a dosing schedule, skip any missed dose. Do not use two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while taking activated charcoal?

Avoid drinking alcohol.

What are the possible side effects of activated charcoal?

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Although not all side effects are known, activated charcoal is thought to be likely safe for most people when used for a short period of time, and possibly safe when used long term.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe constipation;
  • severe heartburn or sore throat; or
  • dehydration --dizziness, confusion, feeling very thirsty, less urination or sweating.

Common side effects may include:

  • constipation; or
  • black stools.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal can make it harder for your body to absorb other medicines you take by mouth. Take your activated charcoal dose at least 1 to 2 hours before or after taking other medicines by mouth.

Other drugs may affect activated charcoal, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use.

Where can I get more information?

Consult with a licensed healthcare professional before using any herbal/health supplement. Whether you are treated by a medical doctor or a practitioner trained in the use of natural medicines/supplements, make sure all your healthcare providers know about all of your medical conditions and treatments.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2021 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 5.01. Revision date: 8/27/2021.

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