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What happens if someone swallows antifreeze?

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Quick Answer

Someone who swallows antifreeze may experience signs of poisoning, which includes difficulty breathing, kidney failure and heart complaints, according to Medline Plus. Anybody who ingests antifreeze should seek immediate medical attention. The severity of the symptoms and risk of death varies depending on the type of antifreeze the patient swallows.

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Full Answer

Some of the complications associated with swallowing antifreeze include:

  • Rapid breathing and no breathing.
  • Decreased urine output, no urine output and blood in the urine.
  • Blurred vision and blindness.
  • Low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and acid-base balance fluctuations leading to organ failure.
  • Leg cramps
  • Loss of consciousness, coma, fits, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, slurred speech, lack of alertness, being unable to walk steady and weakness.
  • Cyanosis, including blue lips and fingernails.
  • Vomiting and nausea.

When someone ingests antifreeze or they are aware that someone around them has done so, they must seek immediate medical attention. Unless directed to do so by a medical professional, they should not induce vomiting. In the event of cardiac arrest they should call 911 and begin CPR.

After arriving at the hospital, the person who ingests antifreeze usually receives IV fluids, dialysis, an antidote, medicine to treat the symptoms and a gastric lavage, which involves flushing the stomach via a tube that goes through the nose and into the stomach. When someone ingests antifreeze containing ethylene glycol, they may die within 24 hours. If they do not, their kidney function may decline over a matter of weeks, eventually leading to death. Those who swallow methanol are at risk of instant death, especially children.

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