Swallowing soap

Toggle: English / Spanish

Definition

This article discusses the health effects that may occur from swallowing soap. This can happen by accident or on purpose. Swallowing soap does not usually cause serious problems.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Alternative Names

Soap - swallowing; Soap ingestion

Poisonous Ingredient

Most bar soaps are considered harmless (nontoxic), but some may contain ingredients that can be harmful if they are swallowed.

Where Found

Various bar soaps

Symptoms

Symptoms that might occur are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Home Care

DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.

Give the person water or milk right away, unless a provider tells you not to. DO NOT give anything to drink if the person has symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

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

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This 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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The person may not need to go to the emergency room.

If they do go, the provider will measure and monitor their vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.

Outlook (Prognosis)

People usually recover after swallowing soap.

How well someone does depends on how much soap they swallowed and how quickly they receive medical care (if care is needed).

References

Bateman ND. Household products. Medicine. 2012;40(3):125-126. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1357303911003331?np=y Accessed October 19, 2015.

Sioris LJ, Schuller HK. Soaps, detergents, and bleaches. 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 102.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/19/2015
  • 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.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch)

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.