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September 22, 1978

Saltwater Intoxication

Author Affiliations

Maryland Poison Information Center Baltimore

JAMA. 1978;240(13):1338-1339. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290130032007

To the Editor.—  In the past salt water was regarded as a reliable and effective emetic. Even today some first aid manuals describe the use of salt water in the treatment of poisonings. The Maryland Poison Information Center is occasionally involved with parents who have administered salt water to children before obtaining medical advice on an ingestion. Recently, we have also been involved with several cases in which the physician recommended salt water to induce emesis. As a result of these potentially dangerous situations, we believe it is appropriate to review the toxic effects of saltwater ingestion.The commonly recommended emetic dose of salt water is one tablespoon of salt dissolved in a cup of warm water and repeated until emesis occurs. Using this regimen or similar ones, acute salt intoxication has developed in both adults and children whether or not emesis occurred.1 Symptoms include irritability, anorexia, progressive obtundation,