Baking soda is a common household product promoted by the manufacturer as an antacid. It contains sodium bicarbonate and has the potential for significant toxicity when ingested in excessive amounts. Characterizing the patterns and outcomes from the misuse of baking soda as a home remedy can guide the clinical assessment and preventative counselling of patients at risk for use of this product.
We conducted a retrospective review of all symptomatic cases involving ingestion and misuse of a baking soda powder product that were reported to the California Poison Control System between the years 2000 and 2012.
Of the 192 cases we identified, 55·8% were female, ages ranged 2 months to 79 years, and the most common reasons for misuse included antacid (60·4%), 'beat a urine drug test' (11·5%) and treat a UTI (4·7%). Most cases (55·2%) had significant symptoms warranting a medical evaluation, whereas 12 patients required hospital admission developed either electrolyte imbalances, metabolic alkalosis or respiratory depression.
Misuse of baking soda can result in serious electrolyte and acid/base imbalances. Patients at highest risk of toxicity may include those who chronically use an antacid, those who use the method to 'beat' urine drug screens, pregnant women and young children. Self-treatment with baking soda as a home remedy may also mask or delay medical care thereby complicating or exacerbating an existing medical problem. We suggest that healthcare providers counsel high-risk patients about the potential complications of misuse of baking soda as a home remedy.