Chemical Hand Warmer Packet Ingestion: A Case of Elemental Iron Exposure.
For individuals who work outdoors in the winter or play winter sports, chemical hand warmers are becoming increasingly more commonplace because of their convenience and effectiveness. A 32-year-old woman with a history of chronic pain and bipolar disorder presented to the emergency department complaining of a "warm sensation" in her mouth and epigastrium after reportedly ingesting the partial contents of a chemical hand warmer packet containing between 5 and 8 g of elemental iron. She had been complaining of abdominal pain for approximately 1 month and was prescribed unknown antibiotics the previous day. The patient denied ingestion of any other product or medication other than what was prescribed. A serum iron level obtained approximately 6 hours after ingestion measured 235 micrograms/dL (reference range 40-180 micrograms/dL). As the patient demonstrated no new abdominal complaints and no evidence of systemic iron toxicity, she was discharged uneventfully after education. However, the potential for significant iron toxicity exists depending on the extent of exposure to this or similar products. Treatment for severe iron toxicity may include fluid resuscitation, whole bowel irrigation, and iron chelation therapy with deferoxamine. Physicians should become aware of the toxicity associated with ingestion of commercially available hand warmers. Consultation with a medical toxicologist is recommended.
Published In/Presented At
Weiland, J. L., Sherrow, L. K., Jayant, D. A., & Katz, K. D. (2017). Chemical Hand Warmer Packet Ingestion: A Case of Elemental Iron Exposure. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 28(3), 246-248. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2017.04.006
Department of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine Faculty, Department of Emergency Medicine Residents