Automatic dishwasher soap poisoning
Automatic dishwasher soap poisoning refers to illness that occurs when you swallow soap used in automatic dishwashers or when the soap contacts the face.
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.
Automatic dishwasher products contain various soaps. Potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate are the most common.
Standard liquid household detergents and soaps rarely cause serious injury if swallowed accidentally. However, single-use laundry or dishwasher detergent packets, or "pods" are more concentrated. Therefore, they are more likely to damage the esophagus.
The poisonous ingredients are found in automatic dishwasher soaps.
Symptoms of automatic dishwasher soap poisoning can affect many parts of the body.
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
HEART AND BLOOD CIRCULATION
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
Seek immediate emergency medical help. DO NOT make the person throw up.
If the soap is in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the soap was swallowed, have the person immediately drink water or milk.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
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. 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.
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. Blood and urine tests will be done. Symptoms will be treated as needed. The person may receive:
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 poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. Damage can continue to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the product is swallowed. Death may occur up to a month after the poisoning.
However, most cases of swallowing dishwasher soap are not that harmful. Over-the-counter household products are made to be safe for people and the environment.
Davis MG, Casavant MJ, Spiller HA, Chounthirath T, Smith GA. Pediatric exposures to laundry and dishwasher detergents in the United States: 2013-2014. Pediatrics. 2016;137(5).
Meehan TJ. Approach to the poisoned patient. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 139.
Vale JA, Bradberry SM. Poisoning. In: Kumar P, Clark M, eds. Kumar and Clarke's Clinical Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 6.
Review Date: 10/11/2018
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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