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Barium Sulfate Side Effects

Barium Sulfate Side Effects

If you have been prescribed to take barium sulfate by your doctor, it is important for you to know its side effects. This article will provide you information about why it is used and what are its potential side effects.
Deepa Kartha
People who had to get a CT scan or X-ray of their gastrointestinal tract will surely know what barium sulfate is. This is because such individuals are asked to consume this substance which comes under the group, radiopaque contrast media. Barium sulfate can be administered in two ways. People who have to get their esophagus, stomach and small intestine scanned, have to take it orally while those who have to get the small and large intestine scanned, are given barium sulfate as an enema.
When a person takes barium sulfate, his internal organs appear to be whiter in the X-rays as well as CT scan reports. Due to this, the doctor can easily distinguish between the organs and come to know if there is a problem in any of them. Though barium sulfate is important in diagnosing certain health problems, it can have some side effects.
What is Barium Sulfate?
The chemical formula for barium sulfate is BaSO4 and just as the name suggests, it has properties of barium metal. Due to this, people worry if it is dangerous. Barium sulfate does not have the capability of dissolving in water and therefore, human body cannot absorb the toxicity of the metal very easily. Also, its dosage will not be the same for everyone. Rather, the doctor will prescribe different dosage for each patient according to the reason for conducting the diagnosis.
Generally, it has to be taken anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours prior to the actual test. Most patients would be asked to refrain from eating as well as drinking before a few hours. For instance, if the test is scheduled in the morning, the person may be asked to skip dinner and will also have to avoid drinking any fluids, including water. Instead, one might be asked to start taking small doses of barium sulfate till the time of test. After the test is done, one is free to go back to one's normal diet.
Common Side Effects
Although consumption of barium sulfate is actually very safe, there have been cases where people have experienced some type of side effects. One thing that makes people want to avoid it is its unpleasant taste. It is said that the barium sulfate leaves a strong aftertaste in the mouth which does not go away easily. However, this is not a side effect. Here is a list of actual side effects that one may experience after the consumption of barium sulfate.
  • One common side effect is constipation. Along with this, one is also likely to experience nausea and vomiting. One way of avoiding constipation is to drink lots of fluids, especially water after the test is done.
  • Apart from the above given side effects, you may also experience stomach cramps, weakness, sweating, etc. However, these are not very serious and will go away, once the body starts adjusting to it.
  • Though most people only experience very mild side effects, there are some who may have to endure certain severe ones. For instance, some people may experience skin problems like itching, hives and even reddish skin.
  • Another serious side effect is wheezing or finding difficulty in breathing or swallowing. Some may also experience confusion, agitation and hoarseness in the throat after consuming it.
You should inform your health practitioner about your health problems as well as the medication you take. This is because the existence of a disease may trigger some kind of side effect. If you are pregnant or are breastfeeding, make sure that you tell this to your health practitioner as getting a CT scan or X-ray can be harmful for the baby. 
One can even experience side effects if barium sulfate is not consumed before the tests, as prescribed by the doctor. Hence, follow the instructions of your physician very carefully and avoid overdose to prevent occurrence of any kind of side effects while taking it.