Baking soda is helpful for making cakes and other baked goods rise, but it can also be harmful if ingested in large quantities. A 2-year-old girl was hospitalized with life-threatening brain damage in 2006 with the possible cause noted as eating baking soda, according to an article in on SFGate.com.
Brain Damage Link
Although brain damage is not listed as one of baking soda's side effects, convulsions and seizures are. In an "Archives Disease Childhood" article about febrile convulsions, author Malcolm Fowler reported how the prolonged convulsions resulted in brain damage that occurred during the convulsions. The convulsions lasted from 1 to 6 hours and were followed by a period of unconsciousness.
Other Side Effects
In addition to convulsions, ingesting large amounts of baking soda can result in a number of other harmful side effects, according to Medline Plus. These include vomiting and diarrhea, frequent urination, constipation and the sensation of being full, irritability and muscle weakness. In a practice known as soda loading, coaches and trainers give baking soda and water mixtures to athletes with the goal of improving their performance over an extended period. Medline Plus counters soda loading is harmful and, contrary to the coach and trainer beliefs, can render athletes unable to perform.
Overdose and Action
What constitutes an overdose of baking soda depends on a person's weight, age and amount of baking soda consumed. Younger children with lower body weights are more susceptible to a potentially harmful overdose of baking soda than adults. Observing overdose symptoms, either individually or combined, is enough reason to call the National Poison Control Center and, if advised by Poison Control personnel, a trip to the emergency room. Important information to provide during the call includes the person's weight, age and the severity and type of side effects. Also provide information on how much baking soda the person consumed, when they consumed it and the type of product that contained it.
People of any age can overdose on baking soda. Never induce vomiting to rid the system of baking soda unless a doctor or other healthcare professional advises it. Hospital treatments for baking soda overdoses include administration of breathing support and IV fluids as needed, activated charcoal, laxatives and medicines to treat the side effects. The length and level of recovery depends on the severity of the poisoning and the health of the patient.