While activated charcoal is a powerful emergency decontaminate that can save lives if given in a timely manner and at the proper dosage, there are some side effects that will be experienced by the user. Many people may experience no side effects at all after the use of activated charcoal but others could experience several minor to major side effects.
Using Activated Charcoal Suspension
The activated charcoal suspension is a commonly used form of activated charcoal. It is basically the activated charcoal powder mixed into a beverage form with water. The side effects experienced by those using an activated charcoal suspension may include vomiting, which can happen with whatever the patient or victim overdosed on or was poisoned with. The simple activated charcoal suspension will cause constipation for most patients and stools will be darkened due to the indigestibility of the charcoal itself.
Using Activated Charcoal and Sorbitol Suspension
The activated charcoal and sorbitol suspension is the most commonly used form of activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is known to cause constipation so sorbitol is generally used to counteract that side effect. Sorbitol is a sweetener known to cause diarrhea. Sorbitol is mixed with the activated charcoal to counteract the constipation that generally occurs with activated charcoal. While the sorbitol is meant to counteract the constipation likely to develop from the use of activated charcoal, some people may find themselves overly sensitive to this chemical and develop diarrhea. For those who are particularly sensitive to sorbitol, diarrhea may be a very uncomfortable side effect. Darkened stools should always be expected when using activated charcoal because all of the charcoal consumed is passed from the body along with the toxic substance it was meant to treat.
Using Activated Charcoal Tablets
Activated charcoal tablets are available as an over-the-counter remedy to be used for stomach ailments such as diarrhea or otherwise upset stomach and also as a preventative measure for those who expect to consume more alcohol than they’d like during a night out. Constipation and darkened stools the following day are side effects that can be expected by those who use activated charcoal tablets.
Severe Side Effects
Severe side effects of using activated charcoal suspension either with or without the sorbitol occur rarely but can include allergic reactions such as rash, hives, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest and/or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue.
Side Effects Should Be Expected
At the very least, people who use activated charcoal must expect darkened stools. Though vomiting may occur while attempting to drink the liquid forms of activated charcoal, these liquid suspensions are always administered by medical personnel who will be able to offer alternate means of delivering this life saving concoction to the stomach.