What is Chlorine Poisoning?
- Chlorine is a pale green-yellow poisonous gas that is highly-reactive in nature. It has a pungent and irritating smell. Chlorine combines readily with other elements to form various compounds and solutions that has a wide range of commercial and industrial application
- Primarily, chlorine is used to purify water (it kills harmful bacteria). It is also found in many cleaning solutions, used as a bleach in the paper and cloth industry, and in the manufacture of insecticides
- Chlorine Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake (swallowing, breathing-in, or skin contact) of any product containing the compound
- 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)
Chlorine Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:
- Chlorine Gas Inhalation
- Chlorine Gas Toxicity
- Chlorine Toxicity
What are the Causes of Chlorine Poisoning?
- Chlorine Poisoning is caused by the ingestion, inhalation, or exposure of skin to chlorine compounds and products
- This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
- Chlorine is found in many domestic products including bleaches, cleaners, and special tablets for swimming pool use. Mixing common chemicals and cleaning solvents present at home inadvertently, may result in the release of chlorine gas
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 Chlorine Poisoning?
The signs and symptoms of Chlorine Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body, such as the vascular system, digestive system, respiratory system, skin, and ENT may be affected.
The signs and symptoms of Chlorine Poisoning may include:
- Severe breathing difficulties, if the chemical fumes are inhaled. This may also affect the nose, eyes, and throat
- Fluid in the lungs (lung edema)
- Severe burning and associated pain in the mouth, throat, and food-pipe (even the stomach may be burnt)
- Speaking and swallowing difficulties due to swelling of tongue and throat
- 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)
- Severe changes in blood pH value affecting many parts of the body and organs
How is First Aid administered for Chlorine Poisoning?
First Aid tips for Chlorine Poisoning:
- Call 911 or your local emergency help number immediately, for emergency assistance
- 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
- Carefully remove the individual from the exposure area; move them to region of fresh air immediately
- Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
- If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
- 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
- In case of symptoms that indicate difficulty in swallowing including vomiting or decreased alertness, do not give anything by way of mouth
- 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:
- Medically manage symptoms, such as abnormal heart rate
- Provide breathing support, if necessary
- Gastric lavage for elimination of the chemical from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions)
- Administer medications to counter the effects of the ingested substance
- Administer activated charcoal to avoid absorbance 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 Chlorine Poisoning?
First aid for Chlorine 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 Chlorine Poisoning?
- The prognosis of Chlorine Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
- If the individual can recover from the symptoms with appropriate medication and early support, the outcome is generally good
- Severe exposure of body organs (mouth, throat, gastrointestinal tract including stomach) to the chemical can lead to complications and irreversible damage; deaths have been reported following such poisoning incidents
- An acute inhalation of chlorine gas can result in hypoxemia (decreased oxygen in blood), wheezing, and severe lung injury. In such cases, the condition can be fatal
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 Chlorine Poisoning be Prevented?
Chlorine 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 (such as masks) when working with or using such chemicals
- NEVER mix home bleaching solutions and other chemicals to increase their cleaning effect; it can result in the production of certain toxic gases
- Be 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 and quantity of substance ingested
- Age and weight of the individual
- And, the overall health status of the individual