Toddler and Preschool  |  Food and drink

My Child Got Into The Baking Soda

The Bottom Line

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. Both sodium and bicarbonate can cause serious toxicity if too much is swallowed.

The Full Story

Baking Soda is used as a leavening agent and can be found in many kitchens. Leavening agents cause dough to rise, just like yeast, except baking soda works through a chemical reaction to generate gas. Another kitchen use of baking soda is to absorb odors in refrigerators. In medicine, sodium bicarbonate has been used as an antacid when swallowed and as an alkalinizer when given intravenously. When evaluating the toxicity of baking soda, there are two parts to consider: the sodium; and the bicarbonate, which effects the pH (acid level) of body fluids.

Early after an ingestion of too much baking soda, vomiting and diarrhea are common as the body tries to correct the high sodium concentration by pulling more water into the digestive tract. After absorption, high sodium concentrations can cause seizures, dehydration, and kidney failure. When the pH gets too high (alkaline), breathing becomes depressed as the body tries to restore its proper acidity by retaining carbon dioxide.

Using too much baking soda as a homemade antacid can cause rapid formation of gas in the stomach. You should not use baking soda to treat stomach upset without specific direction from your healthcare provider. Stomach ruptures can occur with baking soda use after alcohol binging or a large meal. For these reasons, it is better to use over-the-counter antacid products such as calcium carbonate (like Tums®), which work in a similar way but are much safer. If your doctor has recommended sodium bicarbonate tablets, use them only as directed.

Baking soda is said to have a bad taste and, thankfully, that might keep most children from eating too much. However, because of the potential risks, it is important to take baking soda ingestions seriously.

If someone has swallowed baking soda, immediately check the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Pela Soto, PharmD, BSHS, BS
Certified Specialist in Poison Information


For More Information

The History of Baking Soda. [Accessed 2016 Feb 17]. 

American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks. Development of Baking Powder [Accessed 2016 Feb 29].


References

Lazebnik N, Iellin A, Michowitz M. Spontaneous rupture of the normal stomach after sodium bicarbonate ingestion. J Clin Gastroenterol. 1986;8:454-6.

Kupiec TC, Goldenring JM, Raj V. A non-fatal case of sodium toxicity. J Anal Toxicol. 2004;28:526-8.

Razavi B. Baking soda toxicity. Am J Med. 2000;108:756-7.

Poisoned?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

  • Keep baking soda out of reach of children. If it is being used to absorb odors in a refrigerator, put the container as far back in the refrigerator as possible.
  • Cooking with children is fun! Monitor their baking activities when using baking soda.
  • Don’t use baking soda as a homemade antacid.
  • Always keep baking soda in its original container.

This Really Happened

A mother called Poison Control because her 12-month-old daughter was found eating baking soda. It was impossible to tell how much was missing. The child had already vomited once. Poison Control recommended that the child be taken to an emergency room in case she developed worsening symptoms. In the ER, the child had no further symptoms. The physician checked the child’s lab test results and nothing abnormal was found. Poison Control followed up the next day and the child had no further symptoms.