When we bring a new bottle or a lunch box, or any medicine, or even in the new shoes, mostly a packet is found inside with a warning, ‘do not eat’. This packet contains silica gel.
Silica gel is a desiccant or a drying agent which is kept in certain foods or containers to prevent moisture from damaging them. By keeping moisture out this desiccant helps prevent mold, mildew, and corrosion of the product. It is non-toxic if ingested but some people have choked on it.(1)
Uses of Silica
- Silica gel is made of silicon dioxide which is found in sand. The small particle in it can absorb a good amount of water.
- It appears as small, clear, round shaped crystals or as small clear rocks.
- Silica Gel Can Be Used In Different Ways.
- To keep oil photographs from sticking to each other by absorbing moisture
- It can be kept in the boxes of jewellery to keep them bright and shiny
- It increases the shelf life of pets food
- It can revive the phone from water damage
- It is kept in Jacket and coats pockets
- It is kept in the bottles of medicines and vitamins
What Happens When Somebody Eats Silica Gel?
Sometimes silica gel packets are often mistaken by children as a packet of food or candy. Sometimes even adults mistake it for salt or sugar packet.
Silica gel is chemically inert, it does not breakdown in the body. This is why it cannot cause poisoning when ingested.
As it does not break down, this gel can cause choking. This is why it is labeled as ‘do not eat’ by the manufacturers.
Most often the silica gel when ingested does not harm the body and is passed through without any harmful effect. As it does not harm the body, it doesn’t mean that you can eat it. Silica gel doesn’t have any nutritious value and can potentially cause intestinal obstruction when ingested in large quantities.
Silica gel is also found in pet food to preserve them. It sometimes smells the same as food and is accidentally ingested. On ingestion, it can cause nausea and vomiting.
What To Do If Someone Ingests Silica Gel?
- If a child ingests silica gel, help him drink more water so that the gel goes into the stomach. If you think the child has ingested excessive silica, you should contact the local poison control center.
- Inducing vomiting is not suggested. If inhaled try moving to fresh air.
- Some manufacturers coat silica gel with cobalt-chloride. If this is ingested it can cause nausea and vomiting as cobalt-chloride is a toxic compound.
- If you suspect your pet has ingested silica contact a pet’s veterinarian. Considering the type of dog, he can suggest what best can be done.
- Throw away the packets so that the child and pets are less likely to find them.
Even if it is not considered toxic, never try to ingest silica gel. If someone accidentally ingests it, see a doctor, do not take unnecessary risks.
As it has no nutritional value and can have choking hazards, it is best to throw the packets away.