Carbolic acid poisoning
Carbolic acid is a sweet-smelling clear liquid. It is added to many different products. Carbolic acid poisoning occurs when someone touches or swallows this chemical.
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.
Phenol poisoning; Phenylic acid poisoning; Hydroxybenzene poisoning; Phenic acid poisoning; Benzenol poisoning
Phenol is the harmful substance in carbolic acid.
Carbolic acid can be found in:
Other products may also contain carbolic acid.
Below are symptoms of carbolic acid poisoning in different parts of the body.
BLADDER AND KIDNEYS
EYES, EARS, NOSE, MOUTH, AND THROAT
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
HEART AND BLOOD
LUNGS AND AIRWAYS
Get medical help right away. Do NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.
If the person swallowed the carbolic acid, give them water or milk right away, if a provider tells you to.
Do NOT give anything to drink if the person has symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness.
If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
Before Calling Emergency
Have this information ready:
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
Take the container to the hospital with you, if possible.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment may include:
How well someone does depends on how much carbolic acid was swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.
Damage continues to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the poison was swallowed. Death may occur as long as a month later.
Aronson JK. Phenols. In: Aronson JK, ed. Meyler's Side Effects of Drugs. 16th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2016:688-692.
Levine MD. Chemical injuries. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 57.
Review Date: 10/16/2017
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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