Starch ingestion

Alternative names 
Cooking starch; Laundry starch

Poisoning from an ingestion of starch.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Starch

Where Found

  • Starch is found in various cosmetic products  
  • Laundry starch is found in various laundry products  
  • Cooking starch

Cooking starch and laundry starch are different substances. There are numerous brand names for both. This list may not be all inclusive.

For cooking starch:

  • Gastrointestinal       o May cause an intestinal obstruction       o May cause abdominal pain

For laundry starch:

  • Body as a whole       o Fever       o Twitching of the facial muscles       o Twitching of the arms, hands, legs, and/or feet       o Convulsions       o Significantly decreased urine output (or none)       o Collapse  
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o Jaundice (eyes become yellow)  
  • Skin       o Blisters       o Bluish skin, lips, or fingernails       o Sloughing of skin       o Other skin manifestations       o Yellow skin  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Vomiting- mucous, blood       o Diarrhea- mucous, blood  
  • Heart and blood vessels       o Low blood pressure  
  • Nervous system       o Drowsiness       o Coma

Home Treatment

  • If on the skin:       o Remove by washing the area.  
  • If swallowed:       o Seek emergency medical care immediately.       o Do not induce vomiting.

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
They will instruct you if it is necessary to take the patient to the hospital. 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:

For starch:

  • The patient may not need to be seen in an emergency room.  
  • Treat the symptoms.

For laundry starch:

  • For swallowed poison       o Placement of a tube down the nose and into the stomach (a nasogastric tube, or an NG tube) to wash out the stomach       o Activated charcoal administration       o Endoscopy - the placement of a camera down the throat to see the extent of burns to the esophagus and the stomach.       o Give IV fluids       o Admission to the hospital       o Give an antidote       o Treat the symptoms  
  • For inhaled poisons       o A breathing tube may need to be inserted       o Oxygen       o Admission to the hospital or to the intensive care unit       o Bronchoscopy (inserting a camera down the throat into the airway to evaluate the extent of burns to the airway and lungs)

Expectations (prognosis)
For cooking starch, recovery is very likely. For laundry starch, poisoning or toxic ingestion is possible.

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.