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The risks of a potassium overdose

| Apr 17, 2019 | Firm News

When you think of medical mistakes leading to an overdose, you probably think of medications that were created in a lab. The risks of taking too much morphine are well-known, for example. If a doctor makes a mistake and gives you more than your body can handle, you can pass away as a result. Even if you survive, you could suffer serious injuries or brain damage.

However, it’s not just painkillers and other potent medications that you have to watch out for. Some very common elements that you may never think of can actually prove fatal if given out in extra high doses. One of those is potassium.

What does it do?

Athletes often talk about eating bananas because they are high in potassium and they want that boost. The reason is that, at the right levels, it’s very helpful. It helps balance your pH levels, it helps your blood pressure and it helps to balance and regulate your fluid levels. On top of that, it impacts muscle contractions and nerve impulses, so it can help regulate your heartbeat. After a run, eating a banana can help you recover.

How much do you need?

The risk, of course, comes with getting too much at once. So, how much do you really need? Generally, about 4,700 milligrams is an adequate, safe amount for an adult. Numbers can vary for children or those with specific disorders.

Symptoms of high levels

What if the hospital gives you too much potassium? If your levels get too high, what symptoms could you expect to see? A few examples include:

  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Tingling in the feet and hands
  • Tingling in the tongue
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Flaccid paralysis in the extremities
  • Respiratory failure
  • Issues with heart rhythm, kidney function, digestion and blood pressure

Some of these symptoms can have a long-term impact on your health. If you lose consciousness due to heart and respiratory issues, for instance, it can impact the amount of blood and oxygen getting to the brain. When these levels drop, you can suffer serious brain damage.

Even when doctors realize that they have made a mistake and work to correct it, they may never be able to fix the damage that they caused. The human brain is incredibly fragile. A lot of times, damage lasts for life. Even with rehab and treatment, the person may never be the same again.

Your rights

This is just one example of how different medical mistakes can have lasting ramifications, but it helps to show just how dire these mistakes really are for the patients. If you or a loved one suffers serious complications, you must understand all of the rights that you have.