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Mildew remover poisoning

Mildew removers are common household cleaners. Swallowing, breathing in the product, or spraying it in the eyes can be potentially dangerous.

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

  • Detergents
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Sodium hypochlorite
  • Sodium perborate
  • Sodium percarbonate

Where Found

Mildew removers are sold under various brand names.

Symptoms

Airways and lungs:

  • Breathing difficulty (from inhalation)
  • Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)

Eyes, ears, nose, and throat:

  • Severe pain in the throat
  • Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
  • Vision loss

Gastrointestinal:

  • Abdominal pain -- severe
  • Bloody stools
  • Burns of the esophagus (food pipe)
  • Vomiting, possibly with blood

Heart and blood:

  • Collapse
  • Low blood pressure -- develops rapidly
  • Severe change in blood acid levels -- leads to organ damage

Nervous system:

  • Coma (decreased level of consciousness and lack of responsiveness)
  • Stupor

Skin:

  • Burns
  • Irritation
  • Necrosis (holes) in the skin or underlying tissues

Home Care

Get medical help right away. 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 person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

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

Poison Control

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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

  • Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth into the lungs, and a breathing machine (ventilator) 
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (heart tracing)
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Outlook (Prognosis)

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

Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. The ultimate outcome depends on the extent of this damage. Damage continues to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the poison was swallowed, and death may occur as long as a month later.

References

Medical Management Guidelines for Calcium Hypochlorite and Sodium Hypochlorite. Atlanta, GA. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2007.

Wax PM, Yarema M. Corrosives. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 98.

Wax PM, Young A. Caustics. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls, RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 153.

Updated: 1/26/2014

Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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