A Systematic Review of Fatalities Related to Acute Ingestion of Salt. A Need for Warning Labels?

Nutrients. 2017 Jun 23;9(7):648. doi: 10.3390/nu9070648.


There are sporadic cases of fatalities from acutely eating salt. Yet, on social media, there are "challenges to" and examples of children and some adults acutely eating salt, and recently a charity advocated eating small amounts of salt to empathize with Syrian refugees. We performed a systematic review of fatalities from ingesting salt to assess if relatively moderate doses of salt could be fatal. In 27 reports, there were 35 fatalities documented (19 in adults and 16 in children). The lethal dose was estimated to be less than 10 g of sodium (<5 teaspoons of salt) in two children, and less than 25 g sodium in four adults (<4 tablespoons of salt). The frequency of fatal ingestion of salt is not able to be discerned from our review. If investigation of the causes of hypernatremia in hospital records indicates salt overdose is relatively common, consideration could be given to placing warning labels on salt containers and shakers. Such warning labels can have the added advantage of reducing dietary salt consumption.

Keywords: hypernatremia; hypertension; overdose; salt; sodium; warning labels.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Overdose
  • Humans
  • Hypernatremia / chemically induced*
  • Hypernatremia / mortality*
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage*
  • Sodium Chloride / toxicity*


  • Sodium Chloride