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Oven cleaner poisoning

This article discusses the harmful effects from swallowing or breathing in an oven cleaner.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

Corrosive alkalis

Where Found

Oven cleaners are sold under various brand names. Some include:

  • Easy Off oven cleaner
  • Mr. Muscle oven and grill cleaner

This list is not all-inclusive.

Symptoms

Airways and lungs:

  • Breathing difficulty -- from breathing in fumes
  • Throat swelling -- may also cause breathing difficulty

Eyes, ears, nose, and throat:

  • Severe pain in the throat
  • Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
  • Vision loss

Gastrointestinal system: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody stools
  • Burns and possible holes of the esophagus (food pipe)
  • Vomiting, possibly bloody

Heart and blood:

  • Collapse
  • Low blood pressure -- develops rapidly
  • Severe change in blood acid level -- leads to organ damage

Skin:

  • Burns
  • Holes in the skin or underlying tissues
  • Irritation

Home Care

Get medical help right away. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider.

If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of product (as well as the ingredients and strength, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

  • Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (heart tracing)
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Oxygen
  • Pain medicines
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. Oven cleaners can cause severe burns inside the entire gastrointestinal tract. The ultimate outcome depends on the extent of this damage, which can continue for weeks or months after the injury.

References

Wax PM, Yarema M. Corrosives. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 98.

Wax PM, Young A. Caustics. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls, RM, eds. Marx: Rosen's Emergency Medicine-Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2013:chap 153.

Updated: 1/26/2014

Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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