Drain opener poisoning
Drain opening agents are chemicals used to open clogged drains, often in homes. Drain opening agent poisoning can occur if a child accidentally drinks these chemicals, or if someone splashes the poison into the eyes when pouring it or breathes in the fumes of "foaming" drain openers.
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.
- Hydrochloric acid
- Lye (sodium hydroxide or caustic soda)
- Potassium hydroxide
- Sulfuric acid
- Drain cleaners or openers
Note: This list may not include all sources of drain opening agents.
- Severe change in acid level of blood (pH balance), which leads to damage in all of the body organs
Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
- Burns to the eyes, which may result in permanent vision loss
- Severe pain in the throat
- Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
- Blood in the stool
- Burns and possible holes in the throat (esophagus)
- Severe abdominal pain
- Vomiting blood
Heart and circulatory system:
- Low blood pressure that develops rapidly
Lungs and airways:
- Breathing difficulty (from breathing in drain opening agent)
- Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)
- Holes (necrosis) in the skin or tissues underneath
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
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
Poison Control What to Expect at the Emergency Room
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.
The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:
- Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and 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 the vein (by IV)
- Medicines for pain
- Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
- Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days
How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
If this type of poison gets in the eye, it can be very dangerous and difficult to manage. Loss of vision is common. Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body.
Damage continues to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the poison was swallowed.
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: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 98.
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.
|Review Date: 2/5/2014
Reviewed By: 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.