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Mercuric oxide poisoning

Mercuric oxide is a form of mercury. It is a type of mercury salt. There are different types of mercury poisonings. This article discusses poisoning from swallowing mercuric oxide.

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 a local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

Mercuric oxide

Where Found

Mercuric oxide may be found in some:

  • Button batteries (batteries containing mercury are no longer sold in the United States)
  • Disinfectants
  • Fungicides

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Symptoms

Home Care

Seek immediate medical help. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by Poison Control or a health care professional.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition (for example, is the person awake or alert?)
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.

Poison Control

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. 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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Laxative
  • Medicines called chelators that remove mercury from the bloodstream
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

Any person who swallowed a battery will need immediate x-rays to make sure the battery is not stuck in the esophagus. Most swallowed batteries that pass through the esophagus will pass out of the body in the stool without complication. However, batteries stuck in the esophagus can cause a hole in the esophagus very quickly. It is very important to seek immediate medical help after a battery is swallowed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a patient does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a patient gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery. Mercuric oxide poisoning can lead to organ failure and death.

References

Goldfrank LR, ed. Goldfrank’s Toxicologic Emergencies. 8th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2006.

Update Date: 2/1/2013

Updated by: Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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