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First Aid for Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning

Last updated Feb. 26, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Calcium hydroxide is an inorganic compound that is available in the form of a white odorless powder. It can mix with water (in small amounts) to form an alkaline solution that can cause severe chemical burns.

What is Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning?

  • Calcium hydroxide is an inorganic compound that is available in the form of a white odorless powder. It can mix with water (in small amounts) to form an alkaline solution that can cause severe chemical burns
  • Calcium hydroxide (also known as slaked lime) is prominently used in the treatment of water and sewage. It is also used in the paper and food industry, and for the manufacture of ammonia
  • Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. An exposure can also take place when the substance inadvertently affects the skin or eyes
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Calcium Hydrate Poisoning
  • Calcium Hydroxide Toxicity
  • Caustic Lime Poisoning
  • Hydrated Lime Poisoning
  • Milk of Lime Poisoning
  • Pickling Lime Poisoning
  • Portlandite Poisoning
  • Slaked Lime Poisoning

What are the Causes of Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning?

  • Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning is caused by the intake of calcium hydroxide compounds. Exposure of the eye or skin to the substance may cause injury too
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • It is available in the form of industrial solvents and cleaners, cement, lime mortar and plaster, limewater, etc.

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning may include

  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties, if fumes of the solution or chemical powders are inhaled
  • Speaking and swallowing difficulties due to swelling of tongue and throat
  • Severe burning and associated pain in the mouth, throat, and food-pipe (even the stomach may be burnt)
  • Due to this, the eyes, nose, and ears may be affected
  • Severe damage along the gastrointestinal tract including the stomach; severe stomach pain
  • Severe skin irritation and burns (perforations on the skin may be observed)
  • Loss of vision
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Blood in stool and vomit
  • Sudden decrease in blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Collapse
  • Severe changes in blood pH value affecting many parts of the body and organs

How is First Aid administered for Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning:

  • If the individual with Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning is in a coma, or is experiencing life-threatening symptoms, call 911 (or your local emergency help number) immediately
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Otherwise, following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give milk or water to drink
  • Clean the mouth to remove any remaining compound; wipe mouth with a wet cloth
  • In case of symptoms that indicate difficulty in swallowing including vomiting or decreased alertness, do not give anything by way of mouth
  • If skin or eye exposure has occurred, then wash the skin/eye thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for about 15 minutes)
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the product bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Gastric lavage for elimination of drug from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions)
  • Medically manage symptoms, such as abnormal heart rate
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer medications to counter the effect of the substance in the body
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Following this, a suitable skin or eye ointment may be used to treat the exposure
  • Surgical treatment for skin burns including removal of burnt skin
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning?

First aid for Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between poisoning and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • The prognosis can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis is dependent upon the quantity and strength of the compound ingested. In case of severe symptoms including severe burns and organ damage, it may considerably worsen the outcome
  • Ingesting large quantities of calcium hydroxide/slaked lime can result in long-term damage to the mouth, food-pipe, and stomach; the chemical has the potential to continue causing damage to the affected region, even after exposure is ceased. In some cases, fatalities have been reported
  • Skin burns may be severe and if the eye is affected, it can also result in total loss of vision

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning be Prevented?

Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any chemical product
  • Keeping any poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Keep all poisons correctly labeled and in suitable storage locations
  • Wearing appropriate protective wear when working with such chemicals
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of intake of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 29, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 26, 2018