Accidental soap poisoning
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Accidental poisoning by soap products can occur as a result
of contact with household cleaning products that contain strong chemicals, including
soap used to clean your body or household. When you swallow or inhale these
highly toxic products, you can experience life-threatening symptoms.
If you believe that someone you know is experiencing soap
poisoning, you should immediately call 911 or the National Poison Control
Center (NPCC) at 800-222-1222.
What are the signs and symptoms of soap poisoning?
The signs and symptoms of soap poisoning depend on:
- the product you came into contact with
- how you ingested the product
- how much contact you had with the product
The signs and symptoms of soap poisoning can include the
- If soap gets in your eyes, you might lose vision
or have difficulty focusing because the chemicals may be burning your eyes.
- If the soap or detergent came into contact with
your skin, you may have irritation, small holes, or even burns on the top layer
of your skin.
- If you inhaled fumes from soap products, you may
have difficulty breathing or have swelling in your throat. This is very serious
because difficulty breathing or swallowing can be life-threatening.
If you swallowed the soap, there may be pain or swelling in
your throat and on your lips and tongue. You may also experience symptoms of gastrointestinal
distress. You may begin to vomit repeatedly, and you may vomit blood. You may
also experience abdominal pain or have blood in your stool. Depending on the
product that you ingested, you may also have burns in your esophagus.
Other signs of soap poisoning
If you have soap poisoning, you may have low blood pressure
or your heart rate may drop rapidly. In serious situations, your heart could
collapse from contact with the chemicals.
Blood tests may reveal that the acid, or pH, level of your
blood changed, which can damage your vital organs. This doesn’t always occur
with household soap products, but may happen with poisoning from commercial
What causes accidental soap poisoning?
Prolonged exposure to soap or household cleaning products
can lead to poisoning. People often don’t realize the strength of the products
they’re using. They may not open the windows for ventilation because they don’t
realize how harmful it is to inhale chemical fumes while cleaning.
Children are at an increased risk of soap poisoning. They
may accidentally poison themselves if they’re left unsupervised and ingest or
inhale soap products.
What to do if you think someone has soap poisoning
If you or your child has swallowed soap, call the NPCC
immediately at 800-222-1222. This is a free and confidential line to poison
experts who can give you immediate instructions. The line is open 24 hours a
day, seven days a week.
The poison control specialist will tell you what to do next
depending on you or your child’s symptoms. They may tell you to call 911 or go
to an emergency room right away. Never try to make your child or anyone whom
you think may have been poisoned vomit unless a medical professional asks you
to do so.
It’s helpful to provide the poison control specialist or medical
professional with the type and quantity of soap that caused the poisoning.
Bring the container of soap with you to the emergency room if you can.
What are the treatment options for soap poisoning?
Treatment for soap poisoning will vary depending on how you’ve
been exposed to the chemical products. In most cases, a doctor will begin by
checking your vital signs, including your:
- blood pressure
You should tell the medical team right away if you know how
much or what kind of exposure you’ve had to soap products.
The treatment for soap poisoning may include:
- pain medication
- a breathing tube
- intravenous fluids
- removal of any burned skin
- skin irrigation, or washing the skin repeatedly
- a bronchoscopy, which involves putting a camera
down your throat to check for burns in the lungs and airways
- an endoscopy, which involves putting a a camera
put down your throat to check for burns in the esophagus and stomach
Poisoning can be life-threatening. You must get treatment
immediately to help prevent severe complications, including brain damage and
What is the long-term outlook?
The outlook depends on how much of the chemical you were
exposed to and how quickly you’re able to get treatment. The sooner you can get
help, the greater your chances of recovery.
If chemicals have come in contact with your skin, it may be
easier to recover because the damage is mostly superficial. However, if you
swallowed soap, recovery will depend on the amount of internal damage the
chemical caused. Damage to your stomach and esophagus may continue for weeks
after you ingested the chemicals.
Tips to prevent accidental soap poisoning
Be mindful of the chemicals you’re using to clean your home.
Make sure you aren’t accidentally ingesting or inhaling them. Open the windows
when you’re cleaning, and make sure to take breaks to avoid being in contact with
the soap product for too long.
You should also keep soap, detergents, and other household
cleaners safely locked away and out of children’s reach. Parents of young
children should be especially aware of single-load liquid detergent pods for
your dishwasher or laundry. These can be tempting for toddlers, and they’re
also particularly dangerous. In the first two months of 2016 alone, there were
1,903 cases of exposure to these extra-concentrated packets of laundry
detergent by children age 5 and younger, according to the American
Association of Poison Control Centers. Consumer
Reports recommends that families with young children avoid using liquid
detergent pods altogether.
You can also try using baby locks on your cabinets and
drawers. There are several options available that work depending on the type of
cabinet you want to secure. Magnetic locks can be mounted inside your cabinets and
drawers. Adhesive latches are a cheap and less permanent way to
secure cupboards, appliances, and even the toilet.
Make sure you put any soap and household cleaners away again
after using them. Don’t leave them out on a counter where they’re within your
child’s reach. When the bottle or package is empty and you’re ready to discard
it, be sure to rinse it thoroughly and throw it away safely.
Calling poison control
The NPCC can provide more information about soap poisoning. You
can call them from anywhere in the United States at 800-222-1222. This service
is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Soaps
can be highly toxic. Call the NPCC or 911 right away for medical treatment if
you believe that you or someone you know has soap poisoning.