Hydrogen peroxide poisoning
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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.
- 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.
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Breathing difficulty (if large concentrations were swallowed)
- Body aches
- Burns in the mouth and throat
- Chest pain
- Eye burns
- Seizures (rare)
- Stomach swelling
- Temporary white color to the skin
- Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
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
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.
The victim may also receive:
- Blood tests
- Chest x-ray
- EKG (heart tracing)
- Fluids through a vein (IV)
- Medications to treat symptoms
- Tube down the throat into the stomach (gastric tube) to relieve gas pressure
Most contact with household-strength hydrogen peroxide is relatively harmless. Inappropriate exposure to industrial-strength hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous. Passing a tube through the mouth into the stomach (endoscopy) may be required to stop internal bleeding.
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.
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 Mosby; 2013:chap 153.
- Last reviewed on 1/19/2014
- 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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