Generic Name: Activated charcoal Brand Name(s): Generics only. No brands available.

Know the basics

What is activated charcoal used for?

Activated charcoal is commonly used for treating poisonings, reduce intestinal gas (flatulence), lower cholesterol levels, prevent the hangover, and treat bile flow problems (cholestasis) during pregnancy.

How should I take activated charcoal?

Before taking this medicine, call a poison control center, your doctor, or an emergency room for advice. It is a good idea to have these telephone numbers readily available.

To use powder form effectively, you should be careful to add water to the powder container, then shake the liquid form of this medicine well before taking it, because some might have settled at the bottom. Be sure to drink all the liquid. Then rinse the container with a small amount of water, shake the container, and drink this mixture to get the full dose of activated charcoal.

How do I store activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is best stored at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store activated charcoal in the bathroom or the freezer. There may be different brands of activated charcoal that may have different storage needs. It is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush activated charcoal down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. It is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

Know the precautions & warnings

What should I know before using activated charcoal?

  • Consult with your doctor if you have any unusual or allergic reaction to medicines in this group or any other medicines;
  • Elderly persons with slow digestion are more likely to develop constipation if given more than one dose of activated charcoal.

Is it safe during pregnancy or breast-feeding?

Activated charcoal might be safe when used short-term if you are pregnant or breast-feeding but consult with your healthcare professional before using if you are pregnant.

Know the side effects

What side effects can occur from activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is safe for most adults when used short-term. Side effects of activated charcoal include constipation and black stools. In rare cases, it could be more serious when side effects are a slowing or blockage of the intestinal tract, regurgitation into the lungs, and dehydration.

Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about a side-effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Know the interactions

What drugs may interact with activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

  • Syrup of ipecac interacts with activated charcoal: activated charcoal can bind up syrup of ipecac in the stomach. This decreases the effectiveness of syrup of ipecac.
  • Oral drugs interact with activated charcoal: activated charcoal absorbs substances in the stomach and intestines. Taking activated charcoal along with medications taken by mouth can decrease how much medicine your body absorbs, and decrease the effectiveness of your medication. To prevent this interaction, take activated charcoal at least one hour after medications you take by mouth.

Does food or alcohol interact with activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal may interact with food by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food interactions before using this drug.

Taking alcohol with activated charcoal might decrease how well activated charcoal works to prevent poison absorption.

What health conditions may interact with activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal may interact with your health condition. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. It is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have, especially:

  • Intestinal bleeding;
  • Intestinal blockage;
  • Hole in the intestine;
  • Decreased alertness;
  • Dehydration;
  • Slow digestion;
  • Recent surgery.

Understand the dosage

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. You should ALWAYS consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using activated charcoal.

What is the dose of activated charcoal for an adult?

For drug overdose or poisoning:

Initial: 50 to 100 grams of activated charcoal

Followed by charcoal every 2 to 4 hours at a dose equal to 12.5 grams per hour.

What is the dose of activated charcoal for a child

10 to 25 grams of activated charcoal

How is activated charcoal available?

Activated charcoal is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

  • Liquid;
  • Suspension;
  • Tablet;
  • Chewable;
  • Kit;
  • Powder for suspension.

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services (115) or go to your nearest emergency room.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of activated charcoal, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.