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Lead Poisoning in Adults

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.


Lead poisoning

is dangerous levels of lead in your blood. Poisoning usually happens when items that contain lead are accidentally inhaled or swallowed. Lead is found in paint, batteries, and gasoline fumes. Lead is easily absorbed and can cause nervous system damage. Lead also replaces calcium in bones.

Common signs and symptoms of lead poisoning:

  • Abdominal pain, tenderness, cramps, vomiting, or constipation
  • Headaches or joint pain
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Feeling tired and weak (fatigue) or irritable
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss, or a metal taste in your mouth
  • Pale skin, fatigue, muscle weakness, tremors, or paralysis
  • Slow or delayed growth in children
  • Personality changes, mood swings, and trouble sleeping
  • Seizures or a coma

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You have a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have been sleeping more, or have more difficulty than normal waking up.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms get worse, or do not go away.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may include any of the following:

  • Iron may help decrease anemia caused by lead poisoning. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much you should take.
  • Supplements may be needed, such as calcium or vitamin C. Calcium and vitamin C help decrease blood levels of lead. Ask your healthcare provider how much of each to take.
  • Chelation therapy is medicine that will bind with lead in the blood. The lead will be removed through your urine and bowel movements. You may need to drink more liquids than usual. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Medicines may be given for pain or to prevent or control brain swelling or seizures.

Lower your risk for lead exposure:

Local health departments can help you find resources to identify and reduce lead in your home or in your community. Ask your healthcare provider for more information.


  • Rest as needed. Start to do more each day.
  • Drink more liquids. This may help your kidneys get rid of the lead. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. These may help you feel better and have more energy. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
    Healthy Foods

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

You may need to return for more tests. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For more information:

  • National Lead Information Center
    422 South Clinton Avenue
    Rochester , NY 14620
    Phone: 1- 800 - 424
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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