Bleach is a potent chemical with many effective uses around the home. However, its strength as a cleaner means it can pose risks to your health if not used or stored correctly. In fact, it is one of the leading household items that causes poisoning in children.
If you or someone you know accidentally drinks bleach, then you must seek medical help immediately. To learn how to identify the signs of bleach poisoning in the home to help you know when to act, our guide can help.
Always keep bleach stored out of reach and locked away from children, pets and vulnerable adults.
What are the Symptoms Bleach Poisoning?
While bleach is an efficient disinfectant, it is a strong substance that should never be ingested. The impact it has on your body will depend on how much was consumed and even the age and current health status of the person involved. Young children are particularly vulnerable and may drink bleach accidentally. If you suspect they have drank bleach, call for medical help straight away. Some symptoms of bleach poisoning you can look for are:
Restlessness or agitation
Having unusual heartbeats
Drowsiness or loss of consciousness
How is Bleach Poisoning Treated?
Always seek immediate help from doctors if you think you or someone you know has bleach poisoning.
What to Do if You Swallow Bleach or Find Somebody Who Has:
Immediately call an ambulance.
Explain what the substance is, when it was taken, and how much was consumed.
Provide any information you know about the person affected, including medical problems such as existing heart or breathing defects.
Keep the bleach bottle close to hand so you can give it to the medics. This will help them give the patient the best treatment.
Stay in contact with the medics and follow any instructions they give you.
Stay with the person and calm them, place them in the recovery position if unconscious. Remove any clothing with bleach on it and rinse any skin in contact with bleach.
DON'T try to make them be sick or give them anything to eat or drink.
What’s most important to you when it comes to cleaning?
What Sort of Treatments will Hospitals Provide for Bleach Poisoning?
Antidotes – different substances that stop the poison from working.
Activated charcoal – this binds to the poison to stop it being absorbed in the blood.
Anti-epileptic medicine – to stop seizures if the person is suffering from them.
Ventilation – putting the patient on a breathing machine to make sure they get enough air.
Sedatives – these calm the person involved if agitated.
How to Prevent Bleach Poisoning?
Prevention is better than cure. So, it's important that you know how to prevent bleach poisoning, not only how to identify and treat it.
Always store bleach away from children, pets, adults with dementia.
Always store bleach in a sealed container that is fit for purpose. Keep it in the original bottle unless damaged.
Never mix bleach with other substances or chemicals.
Use bleach only as directed on the bottle.
Use bleach in a well-ventilated area. Read our article about ways to use bleach around the house to get more safety information about the product.
Use bleach in a well-ventilated area.
Wear protective clothing, such as gloves, when handling or using bleach.
Never leave an open bleach bottle out in your home where others may find it.
If mixing bleach with water for cleaning, or leaving bleach inside items such as cups to remove stains, make sure you label it clearly and keep it out of reach of others to avoid accidental ingestion.
Call for medical help immediately.
Stay with the person. If they’re conscious, get them to spit out anything remaining in their mouth. If not, put them in the recovery position.
Give as much information as possible to the medical staff.
Don't try and make them be sick or give them anything to eat or drink. If the person vomits the bleach, it will burn the internal organs even further.
Bleach poisoning recovery time
The recovery time from bleach poisoning can vary depending on the severity of the exposure and the individual's overall health. In mild cases, symptoms may subside within a few hours or days. However, in more severe cases, hospitalization may be required, and the recovery time may be longer.
Treatment for bleach poisoning typically involves removing the individual from the source of exposure and providing supportive care for their symptoms. It's important to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that you or someone else has been exposed to high concentrations of bleach.
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2. Benzoni, T. (2023, June 26). Bleach toxicity. StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441921/
3. Slaughter, R. J., Watts, M., Vale, J. A., Grieve, J. R., & Schep, L. J. (2019). The clinical toxicology of sodium hypochlorite. Clinical toxicology (Philadelphia, Pa.), 57(5), 303–311. https://doi.org/10.1080/15563650.2018.1543889