Dilantin overdose

Poisoning from an overdose of Dilantin.

Poisonous Ingredient 

  • phenytoin

Where Found 

  • Dilantin  
  • phenytoin

The symptoms are variable depending on the actual toxicity. Some symptoms may be:

  • involuntary and jerky repetitive movement of the eyeballs  
  • slow or slurred speech  
  • staggering gait or walk  
  • lethargy  
  • nausea  
  • vomiting  
  • body as a whole       o unsteadiness       o swollen gums       o fever       o tremor  
  • nervous system       o sleepiness       o confusion       o coma

Home Treatment 

The standard procedure is to induce vomiting unless the patient is unconscious or experiencing convulsions. Before inducing vomiting, contact Poison Control for verification.

If instructed to induce vomiting, the standard procedure is as follows:

  • Give the usual dose of ipecac syrup: 15 milliliters (ml) or 1 TABLEspoonful for children and 30 ml (2 TABLEspoonsful) for an adult.  
  • Follow with 1/2 glass or 4 ounces (oz.) of water for children or 8 to 12 oz. of water for adults.  
  • Repeat 1 more time in 1/2 hour if vomiting has not occurred.

Before Calling Emergency 

Determine the following information:

  • the patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • the name of the product (ingredients and strengths if known)  
  • the time it was swallowed  
  • the amount swallowed  
  • if the medication was prescribed for the patient

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 
If you are concerned about a Dilantin overdose, seek emergency medical care at the nearest emergency room immediately, or call your local poison control center or local emergency number. See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Take the container with you to the emergency room.

What to expect at the emergency room 

Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • Maintain the patient’s airway.  
  • Support breathing.  
  • Administer activated charcoal.  
  • Use gastric lavage.  
  • Observe the patient closely.  
  • Treat the symptoms.

Expectations (prognosis) 
The outlook depends on the severity of the overdose:

  • Mild overdose: Supportive therapy alone may be sufficient.  
  • Moderate overdose: Recovery is usually complete within 24 to 48 hours with proper treatment.  
  • Severe overdose: If unconscious or vital signs (temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, blood pressure) are abnormal, more aggressive treatments may be necessary. 3 to 5 days may be required before the patient recovers consciousness. However, barring complications, long-term effects and fatalities are uncommon.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.