Poisoning Interventions

Syrup of Ipecac


Syrup of ipecac is a substance that induces vomiting as a means to prevent more serious effects of poisoning. It is usually given in an emergency room or physician’s office but can also be given at home on the advice of a physician or Poison Control Center. In recent years, a common practice has been to give parents ipecac as part of preventive health care and to instruct them to call the local Poison Control Center for directions on its use.

Review of syrup of Ipecac studies:


Wester, 1985

Study design and target population

Before and after design.

Households in Robeson County, NC, with preschool children (number of households not given).


Syrup of ipecac distribution to target families, along with instructions and educational materials.


Emergency room visits and hospital admissions for poisoning before and after intervention.


ER visits declined by 25%, from 20 (before) to 15 (after).

Hospital admissions declined by 55%, from 9 (before) to 4 (after).

Study quality and conclusions

Study results based on very small numbers and very short periods of time.

True effect of intervention cannot be ascertained from data; actual use of syrup of ipecac post-intervention not determined.

Summary of ipecac studies

The one study looking at the effect of syrup of ipecac on reducing poisoning bases its results on very small numbers, and doesn’t have any data to support the indication that the intervention actually increased the use of the agent.

Recommendations on ipecac programs

At this time, no recommendation can be made on programs to increase the use of syrup of ipecac.

Recommendations on future research

There is a need for large-scale randomized controlled studies on the distribution of ipecac to families, examining the impact on emergency room visits and hospitalizations.