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Swallowing chalk

Chalk is a form of limestone. Chalk poisoning occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally swallows chalk.

This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

Chalk is generally considered to be nonpoisonous, but it can cause problems if large amounts are swallowed.

Where Found

Chalk is found in:

  • Billiard chalk (magnesium carbonate)
  • Blackboard and artist's chalk (gypsum)
  • Tailor's chalk (talc)

Note: This list may not include all uses of chalk.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

Home Care

Seek medical help right away. Do not make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

Before Calling Emergency

Get the following information:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (and ingredients and strength, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does not need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate.

A visit to the emergency room, however, may not be needed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well the person does depends on the amount of chalk swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster the person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Chalk is considered a fairly nonpoisonous substance, so recovery is likely.

Alternative Names

Chalk poisoning; Chalk - swallowing

References

Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM. Innocuous injestions. In: Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM, eds. Minor Emergencies. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 74.

Update Date 11/4/2015

Updated by: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services / Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.