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First Aid for Shampoo Poisoning

Last updated March 4, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Shampoos are perfumed cosmetic care products that are used for hair washing, scalp cleaning, and to provide luster to hair. Shampoo Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound.

What is Shampoo Poisoning?

  • Shampoos are perfumed cosmetic care products that are used for hair washing, scalp cleaning, and to provide luster to hair
  • There are many types of shampoos including neutralizing, chelating, keratin, sulfate-free, dry conditioners, and medicated shampoos
  • Shampoo Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of 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)

Shampoo Poisoning may be also referred to as Shampoo Toxicity and Swallowing Shampoo.

What are the Causes of Shampoo Poisoning?

  • Shampoo Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of Shampoo used for washing and cleaning hair and scalp. The shampoo may also get into one’s eyes and cause irritation and pain
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Shampoos are made from a variety of chemicals that include surfactants (sodium lauryl and ammonium laureth sulfate), preservatives, perfumes, and coloring agents. Some of these chemicals may be toxic

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 Shampoo Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Shampoo Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. The signs and symptoms may include:

  • If shampoo gets in the eye, then eye irritation and pain; temporary blurred vision
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain, in some cases
  • Temporary breathing difficulties due to shampoo in the nose and throat
  • In case of an allergic reaction, then the individual may develop wheezing, swollen tongue and throat, and speaking difficulties. In some individuals, this may be severe

How is First Aid administered for Shampoo Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Shampoo 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 exposure of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the compound bottle/container to the ER

Generally, Shampoo Poisoning is a non-serious condition. With appropriate and adequate home care, the individual may recover completely, without any severe symptoms being noted. 

In case of any emergencies (such as an allergic reaction), the emergency medical health professional may take the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Monitor vital signs
  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support in case of respiratory difficulties
  • Wash eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining compound
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line, if necessary

Who should administer First Aid for Shampoo Poisoning?

First aid for Shampoo 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 Shampoo Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Shampoo 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. Since, a vast majority of the shampoos are non-toxic, the condition is not very dangerous, in most of the cases

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 Shampoo Poisoning be Prevented?

Shampoo 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 10, 2017
Last updated: March 4, 2018