Health Watch -- Vitamin Overdose

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

When can vitamins be bad for you? When they're taken in dangerously large amounts.

We normally think of vitamins as being good for our health. But vitamins are also a frequent cause of accidental poisoning in small children, according to toxicologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. An overdose of iron from vitamins is a leading cause of poisoning death in infants and children under the age of 6. Pre-natal vitamins, which contain extra iron, are particularly dangerous - just four pills taken by a small child can be lethal - but even chewable children's vitamins can cause trouble if they're eaten like candy.

Dr. Daniel Keyes, a UT Southwestern toxicologist who also directs the North Texas Poison Center, says that it's important to store all pills - including vitamins - with caution. Keep pills in childproof containers out of reach and out of sight of children. Be especially careful if you use convenient travel cases for pills on vacation. Those generally aren't child-resistant.

Parents should also be careful about how they give pills to children. Don't take your own medication in front of children, and don't give a child medicine with another child present. Don't ever encourage a child to take a medicine because "it tastes good" or say that "it's like candy."

Symptoms of iron overdose include abdominal pain and vomiting. If you suspect that a child has taken vitamins or medicine they shouldn't have, contact your local poison hotline immediately.