Oxalic acid poisoning
Oxalic acid is a poisonous, colorless substance. It is chemical known as a caustic. If it contacts tissues, it can cause injury.
This article discusses poisoning from swallowing oxalic acid.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Oxalic acid may be found in some:
Note: This list may not be all inclusive.
Symptoms of oxalic acid poisoning include:
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 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 person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
Before Calling Emergency
The following information is helpful for emergency assistance:
However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline 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.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
The provider will measure and monitor vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The person may receive:
For skin exposure, treatment may include:
Hospital admission may be needed. Surgery may be required if the esophagus, stomach, or intestines have developed holes (perforations) from exposure to the acid.
How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed, how concentrated the poison is, and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Severe damage to the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, or airway may occur and quickly cause death if not treated. Holes (perforation) in the esophagus and stomach may cause serious infections in both the chest and abdominal cavities, which may result in death.
Hoyte C. Caustics. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 148.
U.S. National Library of Medicine, Specialized Information Services, Toxicology Data Network website. Oxalic acid. toxnet.nlm.nih.gov. Updated April 16, 2009. Accessed January 15, 2019.
Review Date: 12/21/2018
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.