What Really Happens If You Accidentally Eat Silica Gel

It's second nature by now to throw away those small packs of beads that come packaged in things like shoeboxes. After all, they're labeled as dangerous, with warnings not to eat them and to toss them out. But what happens if someone accidentally ingests the beads? Kids and pets get ahold of things they're not supposed to eat all the time; how bad is it to eat silica gel beads?

According to the Illinois Poison Center, it's something to pay attention to, but not an emergency. Silica gel is what's known as a desiccant, which means that its purpose is to remove moisture and humidity from an environment. Because of that, it could mildly dehydrate the stomach and cause some nausea, according to Livestrong. The treatment is simply a few sips of water.

If the gel beads come into contact with the skin or eyes, they could have the same drying effect and cause some irritation. Wash the skin that came in contact with the silica and apply a lotion afterward. If the eye is irritated, then flush it with fresh water for 15 minutes.

Can silica gel packets be reused?

The reason the silica gel packets are labeled with warnings is that they're a choking hazard for small children. But once they've made it into the stomach, they will simply pass through the digestive tract, according to Women's Health. As always, however, if there is any sign of distress or if someone is choking, call emergency services.

Some enterprising people save the packets and try to use the silica for other purposes. With enough of them, you might be able to dry out a bathing suit, or even bring a wet electronic device back to life. They do have a finite ability to absorb moisture, however, and by the time they arrive to you in their original product, they may have exhausted their purpose.

It's best to just follow the instructions and dispose of these innocuous little packages. And if one is accidentally ingested, don't panic, just monitor the situation and have some water at hand.