DefinitionAminophylline or theophylline are medicines used to prevent and treat wheezing and other breathing difficulties caused lung diseases such as asthma.Aminophylline or theophylline overdose occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally takes more than the normal or recommended amount of these medications.This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Alternative NamesTheophylline overdose; Xanthine overdose
Where FoundAminophyllineTheophylline (Theo-Dur, Slo-Phyllin, Theolair, Slo-Bid)Various asthma medicationsNote: This list may not be all-inclusive.
SymptomsThe major life-threatening events of theophylline intoxication are seizures and heart rhythm disturbances.Symptoms in adults may include:Gastrointestinal
Increased appetiteIncreased thirstNauseaVomiting (possibly with blood)Heart and blood
High or low blood pressureIrregular heartbeatRapid heart ratePounding heartbeat (palpitations)Lungs
Breathing difficultyMuscles and joints
Muscle twitching and crampingNervous system
ConfusionConvulsionsDizzinessFeverHallucinations (thinking something is there, but it's not)HeadacheIrritabilityPsychosisRestlessnessSweatingTrouble sleepingSymptoms in babies may include:GastrointestinalNauseaVomitingHeart and blood
Irregular heartbeatLow blood pressureRapid heartbeatShockLungs
Rapid, deep breathingMuscles and joints
Muscle crampsTwitchingNervous system
Home TreatmentSeek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.
Before Calling EmergencyDetermine the following information:Patient's age, weight, and conditionName of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)Time it was swallowedAmount swallowed
Poison Control, or a local emergency numberThe National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to expect at the emergency roomThe health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive:Activated charcoalBreathing support (artificial respiration)Kidney dialysis (in severe cases)LaxativeTube through the nose into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
Expectations (prognosis)Convulsions and irregular heartbeats may be difficult to control. Some symptoms may occur up to 12 hours after the overdose.Death may occur with large overdoses, especially in very young or old patients.
ReferencesShannon MW. Theophylline and caffeine. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 65.