This section is from the book "Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics", by W. Hale White. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics..
Acute poisoning is not rare. Salts of mercury, especially the mercuric, produce severe gastro-intestinal irritation, causing great pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. The corrosive chloride and white precipitate are the preparations usually taken. In case of acute poisoning albumin, the white of an egg (one being sufficient for 4. gr.; .24 gm. of the corrosive chloride, the albuminate re-dissolving in an excess), milk and flour are useful. Vomiting should be induced by mustard and lukewarm water, apomorphine or by irritation of the fauces.
Ptyalism by mercury or its salts produces a train of remarkable symptoms. They were very common when it was the practice to give larger doses of mercurials than are now employed, and they are occasionally seen in those who work in mercury. In the present day, when the patient shows any sign of mercurialism, the dose is reduced. The symptoms (which constitute hydrargyrism or mercurialism) may be brought about however the mercury is taken. The first indications noticed are slight foetor of the breath and soreness of the gums when the teeth are brought forcibly together, by closure of the jaws. Then follows a disagreeable metallic taste in the mouth, the gums become swollen and soft, and they bleed readily. Next there is a considerable increase in the amount of saliva secreted. All these symptoms gradually become more marked, and the tongue swells. The teeth are now loose, the saliva, which is thick and viscid, pours from the mouth, the parotid and salivary glands are enlarged and tender, and there is a slight rise of temperature. In olden days the symptoms occasionally ended in the falling out of the teeth, extensive ulceration of the mouth and tongue, necrosis of the jaw, great weakness, emaciation, anaemia, a watery state of the blood, a liability to haemorrhages, exhaustion and death.
More rarely the symptoms are, for the most part, nervous. These occur, chiefly, if not entirely, among those who work in the metal and inhale the vapor. The first to be observed is tremor, beginning in the face, then invading the arm, and afterwards the legs. Early in the case the trembling is seen only on movement; soon it is permanent. It resembles paralysis agitans. Usually there is considerable weakness of the affected muscles ("mercurial palsy"). There may be pains, and a weak mental condition is common. Nothing has been found, post-mortem, to account for these symptoms.