ZocdocAnswersI have a friend that has severe G6PD deficiency. Would giving him activated charcoal slow down absorption into bloodstream?

Question

I have a friend that has severe G6PD deficiency. Would giving him activated charcoal slow down absorption into bloodstream?

I have a friend that has severe G6PD deficiency. I've been understanding how it works and whatnot. If he ate something wrong that builds up reactive oxygen, would giving him activated charcoal right away slow down the process of hemolytic anemia? For example, if he ingest a wrong drug, would giving him activated charcoal slow down absorption into bloodstream?

Answer

I recommend that you speak with a doctor about this concern. The question that you're asking has much less to do with G6PD deficiency and more to do with the substance he ingests. Activated charcoal can bind certain substances and prevent them from being absorbed from the gut into the body; it can also leech some substances from the blood back into the gut. Charcoal is not used for all ingestions, however, and will not necessarily be useful in all cases. For example, if your friend were to ingest certain nitrates or mothballs, these cause an increase in methylene blue which can precipitate hemolysis in patients with G6PD deficiency. Activated charcoal can bind some of these and prevent their absorption. Another example would be an antibiotic such as moxifloxacin - this can also be bound by activated charcoal. If the charcoal does slow or prevent the absorption into the blood, if should theoretically help prevent a hemolytic reaction. However, activated charcoal doesn't work as well for substances that are very acidic or very basic, which can include certain foods and drugs. Additionally, for most substances, once they are in the blood activated charcoal is unlikely to help. If your friend were to already have symptoms of hemolysis, therefore, it is likely too late to be helpful. All of which is to say that your thought is a good one, but it simply depends on each specific case and the timing involved. Also, activated charcoal should only be given in consultation with doctors and often with a poison control center; if you or your friend ever has any doubts about something he has eaten, the best thing would be to call a doctor right away to discuss his concerns.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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