Chemistry:Sodium nitrite (medical use)
Sodium nitrite is used as a medication together with sodium thiosulfate to treat cyanide poisoning. It is only recommended in severe cases of cyanide poisoning. In those who have both cyanide poisoning and carbon monoxide poisoning sodium thiosulfate by itself is usually recommended. It is given by slow injection into a vein.
Side effects can include low blood pressure, headache, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and vomiting. Greater care should be taken in people with underlying heart disease. People's levels of methemoglobin should be regularly checked during treatment. While not well studied during pregnancy, there is some evidence of potential harm to the baby. Sodium nitrite is believed to work by creating methemoglobin that then binds with cyanide and thus removes it from the mitochondria.
Sodium nitrite came into medical use in the 1920s and 1930s. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system. The cost in the United States together with sodium thiosulfate is about 110 USD.
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