A close up of a large container of Regular Clorox bleach with a white background.


Julie Weber Is This A Poison

Toxicity: Minor toxicity expected in small, accidental ingestions of household bleach.

Expected symptoms: One or two mouthfuls can cause throat irritation and or an upset stomach with limited nausea and vomiting.  Skin exposure can result in a “slippery” feel to the exposed area along with minor irritation.

What to do: If household bleach has been ingested, swish fresh water in the mouth and spit out. After rinsing, drink water to help dilute out any bleach in the stomach, this will make it less irritating to the stomach lining.  If household bleach has gotten on your skin, flush the exposed area for several minutes under tap water of a comfortable temperature.

Note:  If bleach has gotten into the eyes, or If the bleach product is more concentrated or “industrial strength”, call the Missouri Poison Center right away for additional instructions.

Typical household bleach products are 4-8% sodium hypochlorite, with the remaining 92-96% being water. Bleach is an irritant to the skin, the mucous membranes, and the gastrointestinal tract. 

Accidental ingestion of 1-2 mouthfuls can cause minor mouth and throat irritation, stomach upset and vomiting. Brief contact of household bleach on the skin can cause minor redness and irritation. Absorption through skin is not expected when exposed to bleach for short periods of time.

Airborne mist from spraying bleach can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Any inhaled droplets get caught in the back of the throat and are not expected to get deep into the lung fields, so significant symptoms such as difficulty breathing and wheezing are not expected.

Special Note:  When bleach is mixed with ammonia containing cleaners, chloramine gas is released. If it is mixed with an acid (such as vinegar and some toilet bowl cleaners), chlorine gas is released. Both chloramine and chlorine gases can cause burning and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.  Anticipated symptoms are coughing, chest tightness, hoarseness, wheezing, and headache.  If this occurs, ventilate the area and move to fresh air immediately. Call the Missouri Poison Center right away for further treatment advice.

If you find your child has swallowed household bleach,  do not panic.  Take the bleach away from them and wash their hands thoroughly. Wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth and give them some water to drink.  If problems start or you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222.  The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.

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