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Alternative NamesLye poisoning; Caustic soda poisoning
Definition Return to top
Sodium hydroxide is a very strong chemical that is also known as lye and caustic soda. This article discusses poisoning from touching, breathing in (inhaling), or swallowing sodium hydroxide.
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 Return to top
Where Found Return to top
Sodium hydroxide is found in many industrial solvents and cleaners, including flooring stripping products, brick cleaners, cements, and many others.
It may also be found in certain household products, including:
Note: This list is not all inclusive.
Symptoms Return to top
Home Care Return to top
Seek immediate medical help. 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. Do NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.
Before Calling Emergency Return to top
Determine the following information:
Poison Control Return to top
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 Return to top
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. Treatment depends on how the poisoning occurred.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
How well a patient does depends on how fast the poison is diluted and neutralized. Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, eyes, lungs, esophagus, nose, and stomach are possible.
The ultimate outcome depends on the extent of this damage. Damage continues to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the poison was swallowed, and death may occur as long as a month later.
References Return to top
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2002. Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents. Volume III – Medical Management Guidelines for Acute Chemical Exposures: Sodium Hydroxide. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.Update Date: 2/3/2009 Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (10/18/2007).