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Watercolor paints - swallowing


Definition:

This article discusses the health problems that might occur when someone accidentally or intentionally swallows watercolor paints.

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.

Alternative Names:

Paint - watercolors

Poisonous Ingredient:
  • Man-made or natural pigments (especially cadmium and cobalt)
  • Gum arabic

Note: Watercolor paints sold for home use are generally considered nonpoisonous.

Symptoms:

Several tubes of the artist's watercolors need to be eaten before symptoms occur.

Home Care:

Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

Use soap and water to wash any paint off skin and clothes.

Before Calling Emergency:

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strength, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed
Poison Control:

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

What to Expect at the Emergency Room:

A trip to the emergency room is normally not necessary.

However, if the poisoning requires medical help, the health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth and into the lungs, connected to a breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Fluids through the veins (by IV)
  • Laxative
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
Outlook (Prognosis):

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Recovery is likely because watercolor paints are generally considered nonpoisonous.


Review Date: 1/24/2014
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 physician 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. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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