Poisoning - cleaning substances

Emergency Medicine

Clinicals - History

Fact Explanation
Loss of vision, skin burns or irritation, severe pain or burning sensation in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, tongue, mouth etc, excessive tear formation These symptoms develop when cleaning substances that contain corrosive agents come in contact with the eyes, skin or the mucosal surfaces of the upper airway and gastrointestinal tract and cause damage, Ingestion or skin contact with phenol, (contained in disinfectants) can cause characteristic chemical burns to the mucous membranes. These burned areas are initially white in color but change brown with time and are painless due to destruction of nerve endings Loss of vision, skin burns or irritation, severe pain or burning sensation in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, tongue, mouth etc, excessive tear formation
These symptoms develop when cleaning substances that contain corrosive agents come in contact with the eyes, skin or the mucosal surfaces of the upper airway and gastrointestinal tract and cause damage, Ingestion or skin contact with phenol, (contained in disinfectants) can cause characteristic chemical burns to the mucous membranes. These burned areas are initially white in color but change brown with time and are painless due to destruction of nerve endings
Dyspnea, cough, sore throat, 'runny' nose, chest pain, wheeze, drooling of saliva, frothy/blood stained sputum production These symptoms indicate toxic effect of the substance on the respiratory system. It is important to be cautious and be prepared to manage airway obstruction caused by edema in airways. Inhalation of chlorine gas released when substances containing chlorine (such as house hold bleaches) with acidic lavatory cleaners can give rise to such symptoms. In severe exposure paients may develop acute chemical pneumonitis, pulmonary edema, acute respiratory distress syndrome and respiratory failure. Inhalation of ammonia can also give rise to similar symptoms Dyspnea, cough, sore throat, 'runny' nose, chest pain, wheeze, drooling of saliva, frothy/blood stained sputum production
These symptoms indicate toxic effect of the substance on the respiratory system. It is important to be cautious and be prepared to manage airway obstruction caused by edema in airways. Inhalation of chlorine gas released when substances containing chlorine (such as house hold bleaches) with acidic lavatory cleaners can give rise to such symptoms. In severe exposure paients may develop acute chemical pneumonitis, pulmonary edema, acute respiratory distress syndrome and respiratory failure. Inhalation of ammonia can also give rise to similar symptoms
Nausea, vomiting, hematemesis, diarrhea, presence of blood in stools, dysphagia, odynophagia, severe abdominal pain Indicate gastrointestinal involvement following ingestion of a corrosive substance. Poisoning with house hold bleaches which contain sodium hypochlorite, cause nausea ,vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and rarely mucosal ulceration when taken in high concentrations. These symptoms can also occur after ingestion of corrosive acidic substances such as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid etc or alkali substances such as ammonia, sodium hydroxide, contained in cleaning substances Nausea, vomiting, hematemesis, diarrhea, presence of blood in stools, dysphagia, odynophagia, severe abdominal pain
Indicate gastrointestinal involvement following ingestion of a corrosive substance. Poisoning with house hold bleaches which contain sodium hypochlorite, cause nausea ,vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and rarely mucosal ulceration when taken in high concentrations. These symptoms can also occur after ingestion of corrosive acidic substances such as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid etc or alkali substances such as ammonia, sodium hydroxide, contained in cleaning substances
Fainting, dizziness Is seen when the patient develops hypotension as seen following ingestion of substances that contain corrosives,phenol, surfactants (contained in detergents) etc. Fainting, dizziness
Is seen when the patient develops hypotension as seen following ingestion of substances that contain corrosives,phenol, surfactants (contained in detergents) etc.
Headache, seizures, coma Indicate central nervous system involvement associated with severe toxicity, which is rare. Is seen in poisoning with agents such as disinfectants and fabric stain removers containing phenol, hydrogen peroxide, isopropanol etc. Headache, seizures, coma
Indicate central nervous system involvement associated with severe toxicity, which is rare. Is seen in poisoning with agents such as disinfectants and fabric stain removers containing phenol, hydrogen peroxide, isopropanol etc.
History of coming to contact with/ ingestion of a particular cleaning substance It is important to determine the agent which caused the toxicity in order to anticipate complications and make appropriate changes in management History of coming to contact with/ ingestion of a particular cleaning substance
It is important to determine the agent which caused the toxicity in order to anticipate complications and make appropriate changes in management

Clinicals - Examination

Fact Explanation
Dyspnea, tachypnea, stridor, audible or auscultatory wheeze These signs indicate respiratory system involvement. Even though these signs are not common, they indicate severe airway involvement and patient may require rapid air way management. These can be seen with inhalation of substances such as chlorine, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and ingestion of corrosive acids , alkali etc Dyspnea, tachypnea, stridor, audible or auscultatory wheeze
These signs indicate respiratory system involvement. Even though these signs are not common, they indicate severe airway involvement and patient may require rapid air way management. These can be seen with inhalation of substances such as chlorine, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and ingestion of corrosive acids , alkali etc
Tachycardia, hypotension Arise with cardio-respiratory involvement seen with intoxication of agents containing corrosive acids or alkali, hydrogen peroxide, isopropanol etc. Tachycardia, hypotension
Arise with cardio-respiratory involvement seen with intoxication of agents containing corrosive acids or alkali, hydrogen peroxide, isopropanol etc.
Swollen lips, hematemesis, ulcerated oral mucosa, melena These gastrointestinal signs develops when corrosive cleaning substances are ingested Swollen lips, hematemesis, ulcerated oral mucosa, melena
These gastrointestinal signs develops when corrosive cleaning substances are ingested
Abdominal guarding, rebound tenderness, and diminished bowel sounds These signs indicate the presence of acute peritonitis following bowel perforation Abdominal guarding, rebound tenderness, and diminished bowel sounds
These signs indicate the presence of acute peritonitis following bowel perforation
Altered mental status, seizures Develops when there is central nervous system involvement which occurs with severe toxicity. Poisoning with agents containing phenol, hydrogen peroxide, isopropanol etc can cause central nervous system toxicity Altered mental status, seizures
Develops when there is central nervous system involvement which occurs with severe toxicity. Poisoning with agents containing phenol, hydrogen peroxide, isopropanol etc can cause central nervous system toxicity

Investigations - Management

Fact Explanation
pH testing of saliva Unexpected high or low values may confirm ingestion and predict degree of tissue injury but a neutral pH cannot rule out a caustic ingestion pH testing of saliva
Unexpected high or low values may confirm ingestion and predict degree of tissue injury but a neutral pH cannot rule out a caustic ingestion
Complete blood count (CBC) Done to determine base line values Complete blood count (CBC)
Done to determine base line values
Electrolyte levels Done to detect presence of electrolyte imbalances Electrolyte levels
Done to detect presence of electrolyte imbalances
Creatinine level Done to assess renal function Creatinine level
Done to assess renal function
Arterial blood gases Done in patients with respiratory failure Arterial blood gases
Done in patients with respiratory failure
Liver function tests Done to establish baseline levels. If abnormal may indicate severe injury Liver function tests
Done to establish baseline levels. If abnormal may indicate severe injury
Electrocardiogram May help to detect presence of cardiac rhythm abnomalities Electrocardiogram
May help to detect presence of cardiac rhythm abnomalities
Chest X ray Should be done for all who ingested caustic substances. Expected findings may include pneumomediastinum, mediastinitis, pleural effusions, pneumoperitoneum, aspiration pneumonitis, The absence of findings does not exclude perforation or other significant injury Chest X ray
Should be done for all who ingested caustic substances. Expected findings may include pneumomediastinum, mediastinitis, pleural effusions, pneumoperitoneum, aspiration pneumonitis, The absence of findings does not exclude perforation or other significant injury
Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy Can be done to visualize the injuries in the upper gastrointestinal tract, but there is controversy about its use. It shouldn't be performed in who with evidence of esophageal, gastrointestinal perforation, or hemodynamical instability Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy
Can be done to visualize the injuries in the upper gastrointestinal tract, but there is controversy about its use. It shouldn't be performed in who with evidence of esophageal, gastrointestinal perforation, or hemodynamical instability

Management - Supportive

Fact Explanation
Emergency management Supportive care is the mainstay of management. Assess and secure the airway, breathing and circulation. Rapid airway management may necessitate owing to rapid development of airway edema. Once there is no acute threat to life take a relevant brief history and do relevant examination to recognize agent ingested. Patient with caustic ingestion are kept nil by mouth until upper gastrointestinal perforation is excluded. Intravenous fluid therapy should be initiated Emergency management
Supportive care is the mainstay of management. Assess and secure the airway, breathing and circulation. Rapid airway management may necessitate owing to rapid development of airway edema. Once there is no acute threat to life take a relevant brief history and do relevant examination to recognize agent ingested. Patient with caustic ingestion are kept nil by mouth until upper gastrointestinal perforation is excluded. Intravenous fluid therapy should be initiated
Oxygen therapy and assissted ventilation Is given to patients who require respiratory support Oxygen therapy and assissted ventilation
Is given to patients who require respiratory support
Physiotherapy These patients require physiotherapy to prevent further neuromuscular morbidity and deformity. Chest physiotherapy will be required to prevent accumulation of pulmonary secretions and to prevent development of orthostatic pneumonia Physiotherapy
These patients require physiotherapy to prevent further neuromuscular morbidity and deformity. Chest physiotherapy will be required to prevent accumulation of pulmonary secretions and to prevent development of orthostatic pneumonia
Psychiatric referral Should be done if the patient committed deliberate self harm/had suicide intent or if he/she is a known patient with a psychiatric disorder. This will help to reduce recurrence of similar incidents Psychiatric referral
Should be done if the patient committed deliberate self harm/had suicide intent or if he/she is a known patient with a psychiatric disorder. This will help to reduce recurrence of similar incidents

Management - Specific

Fact Explanation
Antibiotics Parenteral antibiotics is administered if evidence of perforation exists. Third-generation cephalosporins or ampicillin/sulbactam will be considered. Antibiotics
Parenteral antibiotics is administered if evidence of perforation exists. Third-generation cephalosporins or ampicillin/sulbactam will be considered.
Proton pump inhibitors Are given to reduce exposure of injured esophagus to gastric acid, so that there will be decreased stricture formation Proton pump inhibitors
Are given to reduce exposure of injured esophagus to gastric acid, so that there will be decreased stricture formation
Narcotic analgesics Given parenteral to reduce the pain associated with these ingestions. It is important to monitor for signs of sedation and respiratory depression Narcotic analgesics
Given parenteral to reduce the pain associated with these ingestions. It is important to monitor for signs of sedation and respiratory depression
Skin irrigation If there is skin contact, washing of the skin should be done. If the substance came into contact with any mucus membrane rapid irrigation is recommended Skin irrigation
If there is skin contact, washing of the skin should be done. If the substance came into contact with any mucus membrane rapid irrigation is recommended
Gastric aspiration and lavage Is not routinely done for all patients. Useful if only done within 1-2 hours from a life threatening ingestion. Done in the presence of a doctor and in a patient with a protected airway.Should not be done if the patient develops seizures, uncooperative or clinically unstable. In case of caustic ingestion aspiration is done via a nasogastric tube Gastric aspiration and lavage
Is not routinely done for all patients. Useful if only done within 1-2 hours from a life threatening ingestion. Done in the presence of a doctor and in a patient with a protected airway.Should not be done if the patient develops seizures, uncooperative or clinically unstable. In case of caustic ingestion aspiration is done via a nasogastric tube
Surgical management Surgical consultation is needed when there is evidence of perforation, mediastinitis, peritonitis, stricture formation need for debridement of skin, burn patients etc Surgical management
Surgical consultation is needed when there is evidence of perforation, mediastinitis, peritonitis, stricture formation need for debridement of skin, burn patients etc

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