Salicylism from topical salicylates: review of the literature

J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1996;34(4):431-6. doi: 10.3109/15563659609013814.


Background: Although topical salicylates are widely used, toxicity from this route is rare.

Case report: We present an unusual case of salicylism from a topical salicylate preparation in an 80-year-old woman. The patient was admitted to the dermatology service with a diagnosis of erythroderma and was treated with salicylate containing ointments. After six days of treatment the patient became confused and paranoid. A serum salicylate was 3.36 mmol/L (46 mg/dL). The patient was admitted to the intensive care unit were she was rehydrated and treated with bicarbonate and activated charcoal.

Results: Her serum salicylate fell to 1.90 mmol/L (26 mg/dL) over a two day period and she regained a normal mental status.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis / chemically induced*
  • Administration, Topical
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Confusion / chemically induced
  • Dermatitis, Exfoliative / drug therapy*
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratolytic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Keratolytic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Paranoid Disorders / chemically induced
  • Risk Factors
  • Salicylates / administration & dosage
  • Salicylates / adverse effects*
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Sleep Stages / drug effects


  • Keratolytic Agents
  • Salicylates
  • Salicylic Acid