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Dirt

Low Risk

Also known as:

Burpee® Espoma® Miracle-Gro® mud potting mix soil

A little boy digging in the dirt with his hands.
Possible Symptoms
  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Eye or ear irritation
What to Do
  1. Wipe or rinse out mouth.
  2. Give a serving size of water to drink.
  3. Rinse any exposed skin with lukewarm water.
  4. Call 1-800-222-1222 for additional instructions.
If Exposed to Eyes

EYE AND EAR EXPOSURE

If someone gets dirt in the eye or the ear, there can be immediate discomfort, which requires prompt first aid to avoid injury.

  1. Start rinsing eye(s) or ear(s) with lukewarm water.
  2. Call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for further recommendations.

Additional Information

Quick Facts about Dirt

What is dirt?

Dirt is a natural resource made up of a mix of organic matter, including sand, clay, rocks, pebbles, and more. Although it is organic, it is actually “dead” and cannot sustain plant life, but it is useful in a variety of ways, such as in the building of shelters, creating art, and making pottery. Along similar lines, there is soil, which is full of living organisms, minerals, and nutrients and can grow plants and help them thrive. Soil is made of stones and bedrock that has been broken down over long periods by the wind and rain. In addition, soil also has components of decayed organisms such as plant and animal waste, living organisms such as microbes, bugs, and worms along with air and water.  

Are there any risks from eating dirt?

Dirt can also contain contaminants such as parasites, bacteria, and toxic heavy metals. Most calls to the poison center about dirt involve curious toddlers tasting it while exploring the outdoors. Usually, children only eat small amounts of dirt which requires basic first aid actions. First, clean the child by washing their hands to avoid getting dirt into their eyes. Rinse out their mouths and give them some fluids to drink. There can be some stomach upset and maybe vomiting, but any symptoms should be minor.

How to prevent children from eating dirt

The best practice is to teach young children to avoid putting things such as dirt in their mouths.  Anyone working with dirt should wear gloves and be sure to wash hands thoroughly, especially before eating and drinking. If shoes are heavily soiled, they should be left outside the home, and clothing should be removed immediately and laundered separately to avoid contamination of other clothing.  

Some individuals suffer from a condition known as “pica,” or the eating of non-food items, and this sometimes includes dirt. The reason for someone to develop pica is unclear, but sometimes they are found to have a nutritional deficiency, and once that deficiency is resolved, the pica cravings may go away. For other people, eating dirt can progress into an addiction and become a mental health concern for which treatment is indicated.

What to do if there is an exposure?

If you find someone has eaten a small amount of dirt, do not panic. Wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth and give them some water to drink. 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.

**Note: Don’t forget every case is different. To make sure you are getting the best information for your individual situation, click below to call or chat. It is fast, free, and confidential.

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