Calamine lotion is one of the staples of childhood and summer. It soothes skin and calms the itch from poison oak and poison ivy and insect bites. The lotion's primary ingredients are zinc oxide and iron oxide. Additional anti-itch medications are sometimes added to improve the lotion’s effectiveness. Adverse reactions to calamine lotion are rare, but mild to severe side effects can occur.
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Calamine Lotion Side Effects
Few side effects are reported with the topical use of calamine lotion. However, reactions can occur with the use of any medication. If you notice irritation when you apply calamine lotion, discontinue its use and contact your doctor for an alternative medication. Severe side effects are rare but may include hives, difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue, throat or face. If these side effects occur, contact your doctor immediately.
Calamine/Pramoxine Side Effects
Pramoxine is a topical anesthetic that sometimes is combined with calamine lotion to enhance its pain-relieving capabilities. Mild side effects include redness, swelling or new pain in the area where you applied the medication. Severe and uncommon side effects may include hives, breathing problems or swelling of the mouth, throat or face. Any of these severe symptoms should prompt you to stop using the medication and contact your doctor immediately.
Calamine/Diphenhydramine Side Effects
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is an antihistamine that blocks the histamine response that causes itching. When combined with calamine lotion as a topical treatment for rashes and itching, diphenhydramine can cause mild skin irritation. Severe and uncommon side effects may include a tightness in the chest or difficulty breathing, hives or swelling of the throat, mouth or face. If any of these side effects occur while you are using a calamine/diphenhydramine product, stop using the lotion and contact your doctor immediately. Calamine lotion with diphenhydramine should not be used in children younger than 2 years old.
Side Effects If Ingested
Although if kept out of the reach of children it is unlikely that calamine lotion will be ingested, the lotion contains zinc oxide. According to the National Institutes of Health, zinc oxide poisoning can occur if calamine lotion is eaten. Symptoms of zinc oxide poisoning include upset stomach, diarrhea, chills and fever, a yellowing of the eyes or skin, and irritation of the mouth and throat. If you swallow calamine lotion, call 911 to seek emergency medical assistance.