Symptoms and SignsParacetamol overdose may cause liver failure. Ingestion of more than 12 g paracetamol (24 standard 500 mg tablets) or more than 150 mg paracetamol per kg bodyweight (9 g paracetamol in a 60 kg individual), whichever is the smaller, can cause severe liver damage. Liver damage (as demonstrated by a rise in plasma transaminase levels) may be apparent between 8 and 36 hours following overdose. Biochemical evidence of maximal damage, however, may not be attained until 72-96 hours after ingestion of the overdose.
Symptoms of paracetamol overdose in the first 24 hours may include pallor, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and abdominal pain. Abnormalities of glucose metabolism and metabolic acidosis may occur. In severe poisoning, hepatic failure may progress to encephalopathy, coma and death. Liver damage results when excess quantities of a toxic metabolite (usually adequately detoxified by glutathione when normal doses of paracetamol are ingested) become irreversibly bound to liver tissue. Acute renal failure with acute tubular necrosis may develop even in the absence of severe liver damage. Cardiac arrhythmias and pancreatitis have been reported.
TreatmentImmediate medical attention (in-hospital, if possible) is required in the event of overdose, even if there are no significant early symptoms. There may be no early symptoms following a life-threatening overdose.
Intravenous N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is effective when initiated within 8 hours of the overdose. Efficacy declines progressively after this time, but NAC may provide some benefit up to and possibly beyond 24 hours. Oral methionine is also effective provided that it is given within 10 to 12 hours of the overdose. Activated charcoal should be considered if the dose of paracetamol ingested exceeds 12 g or 150 mg/kg, whichever is the smaller, and the procedure can be undertaken within 1 hour of the overdose. There is little evidence that undertaking gastric lavage will be of benefit to a patient in whom paracetamol is known to have been the only substance ingested.
CodeineEffects of overdose due to codeine would be subsumed by serious liver toxicity caused by paracetamol overdose. Immediate medical management is required in the event of overdosage, even if symptoms of overdose are not present.
Symptoms and SignsAn overdose of codeine is characterized, in the first phase, by nausea and vomiting. An acute depression of the respiratory centre can cause cyanosis, slower breathing, drowsiness, ataxia and, more rarely, pulmonary oedema. Respiratory pauses, miosis, convulsion, collapse and urine retention. Signs of histamine release have been observed as well.
TreatmentThis should include general symptomatic and supportive measures including a clear airway and monitoring of vital signs until stable. Consider activated charcoal if an adult presents within one hour of ingestion of more than 350 mg of codeine or a child more than 5mg/kg of codeine. Give naloxone if coma or respiratory depression is present. Observe for at least four hours after ingestion or eight hours for a sustained release formulation.
Symptoms and SignsOverdose of caffeine may result in epigastric pain, vomiting, diuresis, tachycardia or cardiac arrhythmia, CNS stimulation (insomnia, restlessness, excitement, agitation, jitteriness, tremors and convulsions). It must be noted that for clinically significant symptoms of caffeine overdose to occur with this product, the amount ingested would be associated with serious paracetamol-related liver toxicity.
TreatmentNo specific antidote is available, but supportive measures such as beta adrenoreceptor antagonists to reverse the cardiotoxic effects may be used.
Sodium bicarbonateHigh doses of sodium bicarbonate would be expected to induce gastrointestinal symptoms including belching and nausea. In addition, high doses of sodium bicarbonate may cause hypernatraemia, electrolytes should be monitored and patients managed accordingly.