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Hydrochloric acid poisoning

Definition

Hydrocholoric acid is a clear, poisonous liquid. It is highly corrosive, which means it immediately causes severe damage, such as burning, on contact.

This article discusses poisoning due to swallowing or breathing in hydrochloric acid.

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.

Poisonous Ingredient

Hydrochloric acid

Where Found

  • Certain fertilizers
  • Pool chemicals
  • Soldering fluxes

This list is not all-inclusive.

Symptoms

Symptoms from swallowing hydrochloric acid may include:

  • Abdominal pain - severe
  • Breathing difficulty due to swelling of throat
  • Chest pain - severe
  • Drooling
  • Fever
  • Mouth pain - severe
  • Rapid drop in blood pressure
  • Throat pain - severe
  • Vomiting blood

Symptoms from breathing in hydrochloric acid:

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by Poison Control or a health care professional.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. DO NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

If possible, determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition (for example, is the person awake or alert?)
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • When it was swallowed or inhaled
  • How much was swallowed or inhaled

However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The 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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The patient may receive:

  • Breathing tube
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids by IV
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Oxygen

Expectations (prognosis)

How well a patient does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a patient gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach are possible. Drinking or breathing in hydrochloric acid may be deadly.


Review Date: 2/2/2011
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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