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Alternative NamesBleach; Clorox; Carrel-Dakin solution
Definition Return to top
Sodium hypochlorite is a chemical commonly found in bleach, water purifiers, and cleaning products.
Swallowing sodium hypochlorite can lead to poisoning. Breathing sodium hypochlorite fumes may also cause poisoning, especially if the product is mixed with ammonia.
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 Return to top
Where Found Return to top
Symptoms Return to top
Watered-down (diluted) sodium hypochlorite generally causes only mild stomach irritation. Swallowing larger amounts can cause more serious symptoms.
NEVER mix ammonia with sodium hypochlorite (bleach or bleach-containing products). This common household error produces a toxic gas that can cause choking and serious breathing problems.
Symptoms of sodium hypochlorite poisoning may include:
Home Care Return to top
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.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. DO NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.
Before Calling Emergency Return to top
Determine the following information:
Poison Control Return to top
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.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to Expect at the Emergency Room Return to top
The person will be admitted to a hospital. 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.
Specific treatment depends on how the poisoning occured.
For swallowed poison:
For inhaled poison, treatment may include:
For skin exposure, treatment may include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Swallowing , smelling, or touching household bleach will likely not cause any significant problems. However, more severe problems can occur with industrial strength bleach, or mixing bleach with ammonia.
How well a patient does depends on how rapidly the sodium hypochlorite was diluted and neutralized. There is a good chance of recovery if proper treatment is given soon after the poison was swallowed. Without prompt treatment, extensive damage to the mouth, throat, eyes, lungs, esophagus, nose, and stomach are possible, depending on how exposure occurred.
References Return to top
Ford MD, Clinical Toxicology. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2001:753.
Agabiti N, Ancona C, Forastiere F, et al. Short term respiratory effects of acute exposure to chlorine due to a swimming pool accident. Occup Environ Med. 2001 Jun;58(6):399-404.
Lambert H, Manel J, Gabrion I. Poisoning by household products. Rev Prat. 2000 Feb 15;50(4):365-71.Update Date: 1/30/2009 Updated by: John E. Duldner, Jr., MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Samaritan Regional Health System, Ashland, Ohio. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.