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First Aid for Cloth Dye Poisoning

Last updated March 2, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Cloth Dye Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of cloth or fabric dye solutions. An exposure can also take place when the compound inadvertently affects the skin or eyes.


What is Cloth Dye Poisoning?

  • Cloth and fabric dyes are coloring compounds that are available commercially or homemade from vegetables, fruits, and other plant parts. Natural dyes are typically non-toxic to minimally-toxic in comparison to synthetic dyes
  • Cloth Dye Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of cloth or fabric dye solutions. An exposure can also take place when the compound 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)

Cloth Dye Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:

  • Fabric Dye Poisoning
  • Cloth Dye Toxicity
  • Textile Dye Poisoning

What are the Causes of Cloth Dye Poisoning?

  • Cloth Dye Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of chemical compounds used to dye clothes. Exposure of the eye/skin to the substance may cause injury too
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Most cloth and fabric dyes are relatively harmless compounds, when it is meant for household/domestic usage purposes. Also, homemade dyes using plant parts, fruits, vegetables, soaps, salts, and oils are typically non-toxic
  • However, synthetic dyes purchased from stores may contain a variety of chemicals including petroleum byproducts, carbamide, potassium aluminum sulfate, sodium carbonate, sodium nitrobenzene-sulfonate, polysaccharides, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose, disodium salts, etc. Some of these compounds may be highly toxic when consumed

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 Cloth Dye Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Cloth Dye Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. The signs and symptoms can affect several systems of the body and may include:

  • Breathing difficulties, if the chemical fumes are inhaled. This may also affect the nose, eyes, and throat
  • 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)
  • Collapse
  • Severe changes in blood pH value affecting many parts of the body and organs

How is First Aid administered for Cloth Dye Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Cloth Dye 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
  • 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 substance bottle/container to the ER

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

  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer suitable medication to mitigate the effects of the chemical substance
  • 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 Cloth Dye Poisoning?

First aid for Cloth Dye 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 Cloth Dye Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Cloth Dye 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 prompt support, the outcome is good. This is generally the case with homemade or household Cloth/Fabric Dye Poisoning, which is not known to be toxic
  • In the case of synthetic dyes, severe poisoning and treatment delays may lead to complications including perforation of the throat or gastrointestinal tract. Bleeding and infection can additionally worsen the prognosis
  • In some individuals, damage to the internal organs may continue to take place for many weeks after the poisoning incident

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 Cloth Dye Poisoning be Prevented?

Cloth Dye Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any health or cosmetic products
  • Keeping cosmetics, medications, and other healthcare products out of reach of children in child-proof containers
  • Keeping poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Keep all poisons correctly labeled and in suitable storage locations
  • 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, amount and time of consumption 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: Aug. 3, 2017
Last updated: March 2, 2018