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Ann Emerg Med. 1990 Oct;19(10):1177-83.

Castor bean intoxication.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033.


We report the cases of a child who ingested two or more castor beans and two adults who each ingested four beans. All three patients developed severe gastroenteritis and recovered without sequelae after receiving IV fluids. The literature contains reports of 424 cases of castor bean intoxication. Symptoms of intoxication include acute gastroenteritis, fluid and electrolyte depletion, gastrointestinal bleeding, hemolysis, and hypoglycemia. Delayed cytotoxicity has not been reported. Of the 424 patients, 14 died (mortality rates: 8.1% of untreated and 0.4% of treated). Deaths were due to hypovolemic shock. Recommended treatment for asymptomatic patients who have chewed one or more raw beans is emergency department evaluation, gastric decontamination, administration of activated charcoal, observation until four to six hours after ingestion, and discharge instructions to return if symptoms develop. After decontamination and activated charcoal, symptomatic patients require hospitalization for treatment with IV fluids, supportive care, and monitoring for hypoglycemia, hemolysis, and complications of hypovolemia. Monitoring for delayed cytotoxicity is unnecessary. Castor beans and their dust are highly allergenic and may cause anaphylaxis.

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