Zinc is a blue-white metal that is widely used in many industrial materials, in some foods, in dental creams, and in vitamins or supplements. Although the human body needs at least 15 milligrams (.0005 oz.) of zinc to remain healthy, there are significant side effects if excessive zinc is consumed, including vomiting, seizures, jaundice and low blood pressure. A metallic taste in the mouth also can indicate zinc poisoning. A medical doctor should be consulted immediately to treat zinc poisoning. After consulting poison control or a medical professional, most people are given fluids, such as milk, to drink. In some cases, a doctor may recommend nasogastric suction, gastric lavage, antidotes, or a red blood cell transfusion.
Once suspected, it is important to treat zinc poisoning in the body immediately. Milk commonly is given to line the stomach and flush the zinc out of the body. The next step is often gastric lavage or gastric suction. With gastric lavage, a tube is placed through the nose or mouth and into the stomach and the contents are washed out of the stomach. With gastric suction, the stomach contents are sucked out.
Sometimes the steps needed to treat zinc poisoning are more aggressive. For example, if the person has chronic anemia from the poisoning, she may need a red blood cell transfusion. Sometimes serum copper is given to the person to help, since a copper deficiency often occurs in the person with the poisoning.
If a person were to regularly consume more than 40 milligrams (.001 oz.) of zinc, it could even be fatal within one week. There are some tell-tale signs that it is time to treat zinc poisoning in the body. For example, if a person experiences body pain, convulsions, chills, fever, an inability to urinate, a metallic taste in the mouth, rash, yellow skin or eyes, low blood pressure, or bloody diarrhea, the person may need to treat for zinc poisoning. If the poisoning is not treated, it can affect the kidneys and result in kidney failure.
In most cases, it is easy to avoid an overdose of zinc. Using common sense, such as taking the recommended amount of supplements and vitamins, will usually prevent zinc consumption from turning toxic. Some products, such as denture creams, were discovered to contain high amounts of zinc as well. Using those products daily, especially when combined with multivitamins containing zinc, may cause toxic amounts of the mineral to build-up in the body.
Since the discovery of zinc in denture creams, many lawsuits have been filed by people who needed to treat for zinc poisoning in their bodies. The plaintiffs claim that the manufacturers of the creams should have informed the users about the side effects of excessive use of the zinc-infused denture creams.