DefinitionAntifreeze is a liquid used to cool engines. It is also called engine coolant. This article discusses poisoning caused by swallowing antifreeze.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.See also: Ethylene glycol poisoning
Alternative NamesEngine coolant poisoning
Poisonous IngredientEthylene glycolMethanolPropylene glycol
Where FoundVarious antifreezes Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.
SymptomsAirways and lungs
Rapid breathingNo breathingBladder and kidneys
Blood in urineNo urine output or decreased urine outputEyes, ears, nose, and throat
Blurred visionBlindnessHeart and blood
Change in body's acid-base balance, which can lead to organ failureRapid heartbeatLow blood pressureMuscles and joints
Leg crampsNervous system
ComaConvulsionsDizzinessFatigueHeadacheSlurred speechStupor (lack of alertness)UnconsciousnessUnsteady walkWeaknessSkin
Blue lips and fingernailsStomach and gastrointestinal tract
Home TreatmentSeek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.Use standard first aid and CPR for signs of shock or cardiac arrest. Call your local poison control center or 911 for further assistance.
Before Calling EmergencyDetermine the following information:Patient's age, weight, and conditionName of product (as well as the ingredients and strength, if known)Time it was swallowedAmount swallowed
Poison Control, or a local emergency numberThe 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 roomThe health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Blood and urine tests will be done.The patient may receive:DialysisFluids through a vein (IV)Medicines to treat symptomsMedicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poisonTube through the nose into the stomach to wash out stomach (gastric lavage)
Expectations (prognosis)For ethylene glycol: Death may occur within the first 24 hours. If the patient survives, there may be little or no urine output for several weeks before the kidneys recover. Any brain damage may be permanent. Vision loss or blindness may also be permanent.For methanol: Methanol is extremely toxic. As little as 2 tablespoons can kill a child, while 2 to 8 oz. can be deadly for an adult. The ultimate outcome depends on how much was swallowed and how soon appropriate care was given.
ReferencesFord M, Delaney KA, Ling L, Erickson T, eds. Clinical Toxicology. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2001.Goldfrank LR, Flomenbaum NE, Lewin NA, et al, eds. Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. 8th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2006.