Ambulances to be kitted out with charcoal drink to treat poisoning

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 October, 2010, 12:00am

Bottles of charcoal drink will soon be given to victims of poisoning who are considered suitable to receive them to speed up their treatment.

From Monday, all of the city's ambulances will be equipped with a bottle of activated charcoal drink, which is scientifically proven to be able to absorb most toxins.

Patients deemed suitable to be given the drinks will be asked to take them on the way to hospital, instead of the current practice of drinking them after they are admitted.

Dr Lau Fei-lung, director of the Hospital Authority's Poison Information Centre, said activated charcoal was a 'universal antidote' that could absorb most toxins before they were digested. If taken within the first hour of poisoning, a 50-gram bottle could absorb up to two-thirds of the toxins, improving the chance of a speedy recovery, Lau said.

The drink looks similar to black ink and is tasteless.

It works best within two hours on people who have been poisoned, are conscious and co-operative, and have consumed a significant amount of toxins, Lau said.

While activated charcoal can absorb a wide range of toxins and materials, it does not work on alcohol, metals, petrol and ethanol.

The drink was provided to patients in a trial earlier this year in Hong Kong East and Kowloon East.

From March to September, paramedics identified 22 patients who might be suitable to take the drink. They consulted doctors on duty at the Poison Information Centre by telephone and the drink was given to seven people.

Lau said the trial was a success, and all seven patients recovered well and were eventually discharged from hospital.

Children under 12 would not be given the drink in the first stage of the plan. They would only be given activated charcoal once they had been admitted to hospital and under doctors' supervision, Lau said.

Speedy recovery

A 50-gram bottle can absorb two-thirds of the toxins if taken within, in minutes: 60