Mercuric oxide

Poisoning from an overdose of mercuric oxide.

Poisonous Ingredient 

Mercuric oxide

Where Found 

  • Various button batteries (Batteries containing mercury are no longer marketed in the U.S.)  
  • Some fungicides

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


  • Body as a whole       o Metallic taste       o Decreased urine output (may stop completely)       o Salivation       o Mouth sores       o Shock  
  • Respiratory:       o Extreme difficulty breathing       o Swelling within the throat (may swell closed)  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Abdominal pain (severe)       o Vomiting       o Bloody diarrhea

Home Treatment 

If there has been an ingestion of a button battery, DO NOT INDUCE Vomiting. The person who ingested the battery will need immediate X-rays at a medical facility to make sure the battery is not lodged in the esophagus.

Most swallowed batteries that pass through the esophagus will then pass in the stool without complication. However, batteries lodged in the esophagus can cause esophageal erosion and can cause a hole in the esophagus very quickly, so you must obtain a medical evaluation immediately after the battery is swallowed.

Before Calling Emergency 

Determine the following:

  • 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

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 

See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Take the container with you to the emergency room.

If a button battery was ingested, you can call the 24-hour National Button Battery Ingestion Hotline at (202) 625-3333.

What to expect at the emergency room 

Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • The use gastric lavage  
  • Upper GI endoscopy to retrieve a battery lodged in the esophagus  
  • Administration of activated charcoal  
  • Administration of a cathartic (a medication used to evacuate the bowels)  
  • Administration of an antidote

Expectations (prognosis) 
Prognosis depends upon the amount and route of exposure. Outcome from mercuric oxide overdose can range from complete recovery to irreversible organ damage or even death.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.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.