What Happens if Silica Gel Is Ingested?

Dessicant, silica gel
Two packets of silica gel. (Image: ajt/iStock/Getty Images)

Considerations

Silica gel packs, used in the packaging process of many products to keep out moisture, come with warning labels. Some of the products that use the packets include leather shoes, food, electronics and medications. By keeping out moisture, this desiccant helps prevent mold, mildew and corrosion. The packets containing the substance instruct individuals to not eat the product because it may be harmful if swallowed. Often adults need to call poison control centers or seek emergency help because children or pets swallow the contents of the package. After opening packages containing silica gel packages, they should be thrown away or placed out of reach of children and animals. The silica gel is not toxic, but it may cause discomfort.

Exposure

If the silica gel packages are ingested, they do not pose a severe danger to the body. Because the purpose of the packet is to remove humidity from the surrounding area, which is what it attempts to do once in contact with skin, the lips, face, tongue, hands and any other skin surface may experience irritation and dryness. Touching the substance in the opened packet and then touching the eyes can cause eye irritation as well. Once in the stomach, the silica gel may cause dehydration or an upset stomach for the person who swallowed the substance. If the product is chewed before swallowing, the product may also be inhaled, causing a cough.

Treatment

Treatment for silica gel exposure is basic first aid. Anywhere the product made contact on the skin, the area needs to be washed with mild soap and water. After cleansing the skin, a hydrating lotion will help prevent any excessive skin drying. If eye irritation occurs after exposure, rinse the eyes continuously with fresh water for 15 minutes. Remove contact lenses before flushing the eyes. If the substance is swallowed, an increase in drinking water will help decrease any stomach distress. The increased water also helps prevent possible dehydration. Do not attempt to induce vomiting to expel the silica gel. If the silica gel is inhaled, move to an area with fresh air. Use oxygen therapy for any breathing difficulties. If distress, in any form, continues after any exposure to silica gel, contact a poison control center or local medical care.

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