The Poison Control Center

Caustic Smelling Salts

Joseph Carrado, MSc, RPh, Tox Talk July-Aug 1987, Vol 1 Issue 2

Though most ingredients of a basic first-aid kit are used to treat injuries, there is one component which can cause serious damage. Aromatic spirits of ammonia ampules contain 0.33 ml. of 15 percent ammonium hydroxide and 35 percent alcohol. This inhalant, which is used as a smelling salt, is capable of causing caustic burns to the oral cavity if bitten or mucosal burns if inserted in the nose, due to the high content of ammonia.

Since prevention is a cornerstone to poison management, these kits should be kept out of the reach of children. If an inquisitive toddler, intent on discovering his or her world, does become exposed to this product, it should be treated as an alkaline corrosive. Call the Poison Control Center immediately. Irrigation and dilution (not forceful) with milk or water is indicated at home, followed by evaluation at a health care facility.

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