Sunscreen ingestion

This poisoning is due to ingestion of a sunscreen.

Poisonous Ingredient 
Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

Where Found 

  • Some sunscreen lotions

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Note: most toxic reactions to PABA are from allergic reactions, not overdoses.

  • Respiratory       o Slowed respirations (in extremely high doses)       o Shortness of breath (more common in allergic reactions)  
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o Eye irritation may occur after eye exposure  
  • Skin       o Rash (allergic)  
  • Gastrointestinal       o nausea and/or Vomiting  
  • Nervous system (all effects are with extremely high doses)       o Dizziness       o Stupor       o Coma

Home Treatment 
Call Poison Control.

Before Calling Emergency 
Determine the following information:

  • The patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • The name of the product (as well as the ingredients and strength, 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.

What to expect at the emergency room 

Some, or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • 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 (gastric lavage)       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 skin exposure       o Irrigation (washing of the skin), perhaps every few hours for several days       o Skin debridement (surgical removal of burned skin)       o Admission or transfer to a hospital that specializes in burn care  
  • For allergic reactions       o Use of diphenhydramine       o Use of prednisone

Expectations (prognosis) 
Ingestion of sunscreen products containing PABA rarely causes symptoms. Some patients may be allergic to PABA.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, 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.