Calamine is an over-the-counter lotion that is used to treat a variety of skin conditions such as poison ivy rash, sunburn, and eczema. Active ingredients in calamine include zinc oxide (98%) and ferric oxide (2%). These two ingredients can help provide relief from the pain, itching and swelling caused by insect bites and stings, it helps dry the ooze from poison ivy rash, and can provide relief from the burning sensation due to heat rash and sun burn.
Most ingestions of calamine lotion are small, involving only a taste or a mouthful of the product. Accidental taste or licks of calamine lotion are unlikely to cause any symptoms. Swallowing a mouthful or more can cause minor symptoms. The ingredients in calamine lotion are irritating to the stomach lining and can sometimes result in an upset stomach or vomiting. Due to the lotion base of the product there can be a laxative effect resulting in loose stools or diarrhea. Symptoms are usually mild and self-limited, meaning once the calamine lotion is eliminated from the body, the symptoms will go away.
If you find your child with calamine lotion, do not panic. Take the bottle away and swish water in the mouth and spit out. Wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet washcloth if the child is unable to swish and spit. After the rinsing has been done, give the child a serving of water or milk. If problems start or you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.
Special Note: The product Caladryl® is similar to calamine lotion, but Caladryl contains additional ingredients of either pramoxine (a local anesthetic) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), and some formulations contain both. These added ingredients can cause symptoms that are more concerning than ingesting standard calamine lotion. Because of the additional risk, call the Missouri Poison Center be right away for specific treatment advice.