Sulfuric acid poisoning


Definition

Sulfuric acid is a very strong chemical that is corrosive. Corrosive means it can cause severe burns and tissue damage when it comes into contact with the skin or mucous membranes. This article discusses poisoning from sulfuric acid.

This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Alternative Names

Battery acid poisoning; Hydrogen sulfate poisoning; Oil of vitriol poisoning; Matting acid poisoning; Vitriol brown oil poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

Sulfuric acid

Where Found

Sulfuric acid is found in:

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

Symptoms

Initial symptoms include severe pain on contact.

Symptoms from swallowing may also include:

Symptoms from breathing in the poison may include:

Symptoms from skin or eye contact may include:

Home Care

DO NOT make a person throw up. Seek medical help right away.

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. DO NOT give water or milk if the person is having symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These may include vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness.

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

Before Calling Emergency

Get the following information, if possible:

Take the container with you to the emergency room.

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. 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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including:

Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a person does depends on how fast the poison is diluted and neutralized. Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, eyes, lungs, esophagus, nose, and stomach is possible. The ultimate outcome depends on how much damage there is.

Damage continues to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the poison is swallowed. Treatment may require the removal of part of the esophagus and stomach.

If the poison enters the lungs, serious damage may occur, both immediately and long-term.

Swallowing the poison may cause death. It may occur as long as a month after the poisoning.

References

Bope ET, Kellerman RD. Physical and chemical injuries. In: Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2016. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 21.

Wax PM, Young A. Caustics. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 153.

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