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Hydrogen peroxide poisoning

Hydrogen peroxide is a liquid commonly used to fight germs. Hydrogen peroxide poisoning occurs when large amounts of the liquid come in contact with the lungs or eyes.

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

Hydrogen peroxide

Where Found

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Hair bleach
  • Some contact lens disinfectants

Note: Household hydrogen peroxide has a 3% concentration.That means it contains 97% water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. Hair bleaches usually have a concentration of greater than 6%. Some industrial strength solutions contain more than 10% hydrogen peroxide.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Breathing difficulty (if large concentrations were swallowed)
  • Body aches
  • Burns in the mouth and throat
  • Eye burns
  • Seizures (rare)
  • Stomach swelling
  • Temporary white color to the skin
  • 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.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

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.

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 need a tube down the throat into the stomach (gastric tube) to relieve gas pressure.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most contact with household strength hydrogen peroxide is relatively harmless. Inappropriate exposure to industrial strength hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous.

References

White SR, Hedge MW. Gastrointestinal toxicology. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 13.

Updated: 2/16/2012

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. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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