Antifreeze poisoning

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Antifreeze is an agent added to a water-based liquid to minimize heat in automobile engines. This is also called as a coolant and widely used in vehicles.

Poisoning can occur if antifreeze is consumed either by accident or intentionally. Remember that it contains ethylene glycol and oftentimes isopropanol and methanol. Some of the poisonous components of antifreeze include propylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

What are the indications of antifreeze poisoning?

Antifreeze poisoning can lead to detrimental effects and cause the following indications:

  • Hyperventilation – this is the most common indication of antifreeze poisoning often due to panic or anxiety.
  • Hematuria – presence of blood in the urine which can be seen by the naked eye but can be detected in urine tests.
  • Abdominal pain – the pain is continuous and intense
    Antifreeze poisoning
    Abdominal pain is continuous and intense.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Kidney pain – this is often confused with back pain due to the location of the kidneys. This is also a usual symptom of antifreeze poisoning due to damage to the kidneys after consumption of the liquid.
  • Blurred or poor vision
  • Dizziness
  • Diminished level of alertness
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in the nail and lip color
  • Convulsions
  • Diminished urine output – the production of urine might drop but it can stop in others which causes death within 24 hours.


The treatment of antifreeze poisoning is possible only if the symptoms are detected and timely action was carried out. It is vital to stabilize the individual so that treatment can be started.

The commonly used antidotes for antifreeze poisoning include fomepizole or ethanol in case the first option is not available. It is important to note that fomepizole is highly effective if poisoning was detected early. In case the treatment is delayed, it takes a longer time to cure. The recovery period depends on the damage caused and the severity of the symptoms.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on antifreeze poisoning is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications and how to properly manage poisoning, register for a first aid and CPR course with Victoria First Aid.

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