What Does Antifreeze Do to Humans If Ingested?

A person who ingests antifreeze usually exhibits symptoms of poisoning, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue and headache, according to MedlinePlus. Slurred speech, stupor, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and problems with vision, breathing and urination can also result. Ingesting antifreeze sometimes leads to organ failure, coma and death.

A person who swallows antifreeze requires emergency medical attention, according to MedlinePlus. It is helpful to have the following information available for healthcare providers: the name of the product ingested; the amount ingested; and the patient’s age, weight and health status. The emergency room closely monitors patients who have ingested antifreeze by measuring their blood pressure, pulse, temperature and breathing rate. Medical interventions may be required, including dialysis, intravenous fluids or medications. Gastric lavage may be performed by inserting a tube through the nose and into the stomach to flush its contents.

The poisonous ingredients in antifreeze include ethylene glycol, polyethylene glycol and methanol, notes MedlinePlus. If a patient swallows antifreeze containing primarily ethylene glycol, death may occur within 24 hours. Patients who survive ethylene glycol poisoning sometimes experience permanent brain damage and vision loss. Ingesting as little as 2 to 8 ounces of methanol can cause death in an adult, and 2 tablespoons can be deadly for a child.