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First Aid for Hair Bleach Poisoning

Last updated Feb. 28, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Hair Bleach Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake (swallowing) of any product containing the compound.

What is Hair Bleach Poisoning?

  • Hair bleach chemicals are used to lighten the color of hair. They are mostly made of strong chemical compounds
  • Hair Bleach Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake (swallowing) of any product containing the compound
  • The substance may also come in contact with the skin or eye and cause irritation and associated symptoms
  • 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)

Hair Bleach Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Hair Bleach Toxicity
  • Hair Lightener Poisoning

What are the Causes of Hair Bleach Poisoning?

  • Hair Bleach Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of hair bleach medications or products. In some cases, the substance may affect the eye or skin and cause related symptoms
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • The toxic substance in hair bleach may include hydrogen peroxide, ammonium/potassium persulphate, sodium metasilicate, ethanol, and other chemicals

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 Hair Bleach Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Hair Bleach 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 digestive, respiratory, nervous, urination, vascular, skin and ENT, may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Hair Bleach Poisoning may include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Burning and associated pain in the mouth and throat
  • Swelling of the throat leading to swallowing/speech difficulties
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach upsets and stomach pain
  • Bloody or watery diarrhea
  • If eye exposure occurs, then it can result in redness, watery eyes, and irritation; eye burns
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling dizzy or drowsy; unable to walk properly
  • Urination difficulties
  • Skin rashes
  • Reduced blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Collapse of the body, coma

How is First Aid administered for Hair Bleach Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Hair Bleach 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 compound bottle/container to the ER

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

  • Gastric lavage for elimination of the substance from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions)
  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer medications to counter the effects of the ingested substance
  • Administer activated charcoal to avoid absorbance of the substance in the body
  • Administer laxatives for elimination of the substance from the body
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Hair Bleach Poisoning?

First aid for Hair Bleach 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 Hair Bleach Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Hair Bleach 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. In many cases of small/mild intoxication with hair bleach, the outcome can be good
  • Severe exposure of body organs (throat, gastrointestinal tract including stomach) to the chemical can lead to complications/infections and irreversible damage. In some cases, the damage may progress for weeks and months

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 Hair Bleach Poisoning be Prevented?

Hair Bleach 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
  • 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 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: July 30, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 28, 2018