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Merbromin poisoning

Mebromin is a germ-killing (antiseptic) liquid. Mebromin poisoning occurs when someone swallows this substance. This can be by accident or on purpose.

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

Merbromin is a combination of mercury and bromine. It is harmful if it is swallowed.

Where Found

Merbromin is found in some antiseptics. A common brand name is Mercurochrome, which contains mercury. Compounds like this that contain mercury have not been legally sold in the United States since 1998.

Symptoms

Below are symptoms of merbromin poisoning in different parts of the body.

BLADDER AND KINDNEYS

  • Decreased urine output (may stop completely)
  • Kidney damage

EYES, EARS, NOSE, MOUTH, AND THROAT

  • Excessive saliva
  • Inflammation of the gums
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Mouth sores
  • Swelling in the throat (can be severe and completely close the throat)
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Thirst

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

  • Diarrhea (bloody)
  • Stomach pain (severe)
  • Vomiting

HEART AND BLOOD

LUNGS

  • Breathing difficulty (severe)

NERVOUS SYSTEM

  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Speech difficulties
  • Tremor
  • Mood or personality changes
  • Insomnia

Home Care

Get medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of product (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 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

Take the container to the hospital with you, if possible.

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

The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Laxatives
  • Medicine called an antidote to reverse the effect of the poison
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well someone does depends on how much merbromin they swallowed and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.

If the person takes an antidote to reverse the poison within 1 week, recovery is usually likely. If the poisoning has occurred over a long period of time, some mental and nervous system problems may be permanent.

Alternative Names

Cinfacrom poisoning; Mercurochrome poisoning; Stellachrome poisoning

References

Baum CR. Mercury: Heavy metal and inorganic agents. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 71.

Linakis JG, Skarbek-Borowska S. Toxicologic issues in the neonate. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 18.

Rusyniak DE, Arroyo A, Froberg B, et al. Heavy metals. In: Vincent J-L, Abraham E, Moore FA, et al, eds. Textbook of Critical Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 178.

Velez LI, O'Connell EJ. Heavy metals. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 157.

Zosel AE. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 143.

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.