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The Effects of Potassium Bromide in Humans

by
author image Robin Wasserman
Robin Wasserman has been writing and prosecuting biochemical patents since 1998. She has served as a biochemical patent agent and a research scientist for a gene-therapy company. Wasserman earned her Doctor of Philosophy in biochemistry and molecular biology, graduating from Harvard University in 1995.
The Effects of Potassium Bromide in Humans
Potassium bromide affects the central nervous system. Photo Credit blue brain image by John Sfondilias from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Like all chemicals, potassium bromide can be irritating to various parts of your body if you are exposed to it repeatedly, or for prolonged periods of time. It can be toxic when ingested or inhaled. However, potassium bromide can also be therapeutic as well, helping people with seizure disorders by affecting the central nervous system and the chemical make-up of the brain.

Inhalation

Dust from potassium bromide may irritate your respiratory tract causing coughing, sore throat, and shortness of breath. If this happens, you should get some fresh air. If you see that a person has inhaled potassium bromide and is having difficulty breathing, call emergency services. The recommended treatment is to give the person oxygen. If the person is not breathing, artificial respiration should be administered at once.

Ingestion

Potassium bromide may be ingested. At therapeutic levels, patients with seizure disorders may experience relief of these seizures. Bromide competes with chloride for entry into brain tissues. Excess chloride levels cause an increase in neural activity that may initiate seizures. By decreasing levels of chloride through competitive inhibition with bromide, seizure initiation is limited. While mostly used in canines, prior to the discovery of phenobarbital, potassium bromide was the drug of choice to treat humans, and in certain cases, can still be used.



When ingested by accident, or as a side effect of medicinal use, potassium bromide may cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. If sufficient absorption occurs, the central nervous system can be affecting causing skin rash, blurred vision, drowsiness, irritability, dizziness, mania, hallucinations, and even coma. Treatment includes inducing vomiting as soon as possible, and contacting medical personnel.

Chronic Effects

Repeated or prolonged exposure to potassium bromide by inhalation, ingestion, or direct contact may cause a bromaderma, a skin rash. If repeatedly ingested, depression may result in a gross lack of muscle control, psychoses, memory loss, irritability, and headache.

Acute Effects

A short, non-repeating exposure to potassium bromide does not appear to be toxic, however a single very high dose will cause nausea and vomiting. Short direct skin contact exposures are not irritating.

Skin and Eye Contact

Prolonged exposure of dry potassium bromide to your skin may be mildly irritating. Solutions of potassium bromide placed on the skin may cause irritation, redness, pain, and skin burns. Similarly, direct exposure to your eyes may be irritating causing redness and pain. If your skin or eyes are irritated after direct contact with potassium bromide, flush with water for at least 15 minutes.



In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes and call a physician.

Aggravation of Pre-Existing Conditions

Potassium bromide can aggravate pre-existing mental conditions. If you suffer from depression, alcoholism, neurological or other psychological disorders you may be more susceptible to the effects of potassium bromide..

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