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Sodium carbonate poisoning

Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda or soda ash) is a chemical found in many household and industrial products. This article focuses on poisoning due to sodium carbonate.

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 a local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Sal soda poisoning; Soda ash poisoning; Disodium salt poisoning; Carbonic acid poisoning; Washing soda poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

Sodium carbonate

Where Found

  • Automatic dishwashing soaps
  • Clinitest tablets
  • Glass products
  • Pulp and paper products
  • Some bleaches
  • Some bubble bath solutions
  • Some steam iron cleaners

Note: This list is not all-inclusive.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Breathing problems due to throat swelling
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Eye irritation, redness, and pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Low blood pressure (may develop rapidly)
  • Severe pain in the mouth, throat, chest, or abdominal area
  • Shock
  • Skin irritation
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Vomiting

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 one glass of 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 readily available, determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. 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.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

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

  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids
  • Oxygen
  • X-rays of chest and abdomen

Expectations (prognosis)

Sodium carbonate is usually not very toxic. However, if you swallow very large amounts, you may have symptoms. In this rare situation, long-term effects, even death, are possible if you do not receive quick and aggressive treatment.

Updated: 9/12/2012

A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (12/15/2011).


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