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First Aid for Zinc Oxide Overdose

Last updated Feb. 20, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Zinc Oxide Overdose is the accidental or intentional intake of compounds containing zinc oxide.


What is Zinc Oxide Overdose?

  • Zinc oxide is a chemical compound with a wide variety of industrial and domestic applications. The compound is known to absorb sun’s ultraviolet rays (over a broad spectrum), and hence, forms a main component of most sun protection creams
  • Zinc oxide commonly forms an ingredient in many cosmetic creams and lotions that are used for itches, sunburns, rashes (from diapers), and skin irritation. Trace amounts of zinc oxide are added to many breakfast cereals too
  • Zinc Oxide Overdose is the accidental or intentional intake of compounds containing zinc oxide
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Zinc Oxide Overdose may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Amalox Overdose
  • Azo 22 Overdose
  • Calamine Lotion Overdose
  • Desitin Overdose
  • Zinaderm Overdose

What are the Causes of Zinc Oxide Overdose?

  • Zinc Oxide Overdose is caused by the ingestion of zinc oxide containing products
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • It is available in the form of moisturizing and sunscreen lotions, cosmetic creams and ointments, and food additives. It is also used in rubber products, sealants and adhesives, paint coatings, cigarette filters, etc.

Note: The drug can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of the drug or other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects (such as an overdose).

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Zinc Oxide Overdose?

The signs and symptoms of Zinc Oxide Overdose can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. The signs and symptoms may include

  • Irritation of mouth, throat
  • Coughing
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever and chills
  • Stomach or abdominal pain
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • If skin or eye exposure has occurred, then it may result in burning sensation, inflammation, and pain

Note: Breathing-in toxic fumes of zinc oxide products, which generally occurs in an industrial setting, can cause certain severe symptoms. This condition is known as metal fume fever.

How is First Aid administered for Zinc Oxide Overdose?

First Aid tips for Zinc Oxide Overdose:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as type of compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • DO NOT give anything by way of mouth, if the affected individual is vomiting or showing slow response
  • Otherwise, following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give milk or water to drink
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the product bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer activated charcoal to avoid absorbance of drug in the body
  • Administer laxatives for elimination of drug from the body
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound

Who should administer First Aid for Zinc Oxide Overdose?

First aid for Zinc Oxide Overdose is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who overdosed, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Zinc Oxide Overdose?

  • Zinc Oxide Overdose is usually not a life-threatening condition and once symptoms are managed, the prognosis is good. The substance is not known to be very toxic or harmful.
  • However, in general, the prognosis of an overdose condition is dependent on the amount of drug consumed (or exposure), time between overdose and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient

In general, overdoses are common situations in the emergency departments. Most of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Zinc Oxide Overdose be Prevented?

Zinc Oxide Overdose can be prevented by:

  • Always taking the right dose of medication at recommended times
  • Avoiding drugs that might interact with zinc oxide
  • Refrain from self-medication
  • Keeping medications out of reach of children in child-proof containers
  • For older individuals and those who tend to be forgetful, medications should be stored in single dose containers with time labels, to avoid multiple dosage
  • Monitor intake of this drug especially in patients, who have depression or harbor suicidal thoughts and behavior

It is important to give your healthcare provider a complete list of prescription and non-prescription medications that are being currently taken. This will help them in assessing the possible drug interactions within various medications and help avoid/prevent accidental or unintentional toxic drug effects.

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, dosage and time of administration of medication
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 29, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 20, 2018