Chlorine poisoning occurs when swallowing, touching or inhaling chlorine. It is important to note that chlorine is a chemical that prevents bacterial growth in water. It is widely used in disinfecting swimming pools and drinking water as well as sanitize industrial waste and sewage. In addition, it is also present in various cleaning products.
The chemical reacts with water outside the body and on the mucosal surfaces within even with the water in the GI tract. This results to the formation of hydrochloric and hypochlorous acid which are extremely poisonous to humans.
Some of the common household products and substances that contain chlorine include:
- Swimming pool water
- Mild household cleaners
- Bleach products
- Chlorine tablets added in swimming pools
What are the signs?
Chlorine poisoning can trigger a variety of symptoms all over the body.
- Difficulty breathing
- Buildup of fluid in the lungs
- Stomach pain
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Throat pain
- Swollen throat
- Blood-streaked stools
- Low blood pressure
- Alterations in the pH balance of blood
- Skin damage due to tissue injury from irritation and burns
- Serious damage to the eyes include burning, irritation, blurred vision and even vision loss in severe cases
Management of chlorine poisoning
Seek prompt medical care if an individual was exposed to chlorine. Do not attempt to induce vomiting unless ordered to do so by a healthcare professional.
If the skin was exposed, cleanse it with water and soap right away. In case it enters the eyes, flush the affected eye with running water up to 15 minutes. Get rid of any clothes on parts of the body that was exposed to chlorine.
In case the chemical was accidentally ingested, provide milk or water right away unless vomiting or convulsions occur.
If inhaled, transfer the individual to an area with fresh air right away. It is best to move to the highest ground possible since chlorine is heavier than air.
Once the individual is taken to the emergency department, the doctor will check the vital signs. The following might be started to help alleviate the symptoms and allow the body to deal with the chemical:
- Supportive drugs
- Activated charcoal
- Oxygen therapy
- Intravenous fluids
In some cases, a breathing tube is inserted into the airway for mechanical ventilation especially if the individual has difficulty breathing.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on chlorine poisoning is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications of poisoning and how it is treated, register for a first aid and CPR course with Victoria First Aid.