Is Potassium Chloride a Poison?

Castor glass with salt
Potassium chloride provides a salt substitute for people required to reduce their sodium intake. (Image: Photosiber/iStock/Getty Images)

Potassium chloride, a salt substitute, simulates sodium chloride or salt to add flavor to food. As with any chemical ingested in significant quantities, use of potassium chloride in large amounts creates medical risks, but potassium chloride is not classified as a poison. Moderate use of products containing the salt substitute offers a safe seasoning alternative for most users. People with heart and kidney disease require clearance from a medical professional before using potassium chloride products due to possible interactions with medications.

Potassium Chloride Mix

People with high blood pressure or other medical conditions requiring a reduction in sodium intake use a mixture of potassium chloride and sodium chloride for food seasoning. Potassium chloride has a distinct bitter taste, making it impossible to create products using it as an exclusive seasoning. Substitutes typically use a mixture of approximately 50 percent of sodium and potassium chlorides. Neither product is poisonous when used in small amounts as a food flavor enhancer for people without serious health concerns, including kidney disease.

Flavor Additives and Allergies

Reading product labels and investigating ingredients allow people with allergies to lead relatively healthy lives, but failure to avoid some chemicals means health problems, including minor breathing problems or major health issues such as heart palpitations. Side effects for people with allergies to potassium chloride include severe diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, bloody stools, numbness, weakness, unusual bleeding or bruising, rashes, rapid heartbeat, or swelling of the face, throat or mouth. Any of these conditions requires immediate examination by a medical professional.

Potassium Chloride and Medications

Doctors and nutritionists prescribe drugs, treatments and medications that include potassium chloride. Children take potassium chloride as an electrolyte supplement, as an injection or orally through pills to replace potassium in the body lost during illness. It also serves as a companion medication with water pills. While not poisonous when used correctly, a dangerous situation can arise for the patient from failure to follow the directions given by a doctor or pharmacist. Overdoses of potassium mandate the same procedures as any poisoning, often requiring a trip to the doctor, emergency room, or, at minimum, a call to the national or state poison control center.

Medication Interaction

Medication interactions create serious situations with the same potential health impact as poisons. ACE inhibitors used to treat hypertension and heart conditions have no chemical interactions with potassium chloride. The Cleveland Clinic, however, notes ACE inhibitors widen the blood vessels to increase the amount of blood pumped through the body, blocking a portion of the angiotensin produced in the body and creating a condition where the body fails to slough off excess potassium. Using ACE inhibitors in conjunction with potassium chloride, as a result, risks poisoning the body with excess potassium.

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