Most common household cloth dyes are made from non-toxic pigments, salts, and mild soaps. While these substances should not be ingested liberally by small children, they are generally considered non-toxic.
The only dangerous ingredient that may be found in a cloth dye would be a detergent, or a corrosive alkali. However, it is rare to find a toxic ingredient in most household cloth dyes.
some cloth dyes
If there is a corrosive alkali (detergent) ingestion:
- Respiratory o Breathing difficulty (from inhalation) o Throat swelling (which may also cause breathing difficulty)
- Eyes, ears, nose, and throat o Severe pain in the throat o Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue o Loss of vision
- Gastrointestinal o Severe abdominal pain o Vomiting o Burns of the esophagus (food pipe) o Vomiting blood o Blood in the stool
- Heart and blood vessels o Hypotension (low blood pressure) develops rapidly o Collapse
- Skin o Irritation o Burn o Necrosis (holes) in the skin or underlying tissues
- Blood o Severe change in pH (too much or too little acid in the blood, which leads to damage in all of the body organs)
If you are concerned about a detergent ingestion, seek emergency medical care immediately. The standard procedure is to dilute with water or milk unless the patient is unconscious or experiencing convulsions. Do not induce vomiting.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
- the patient’s age, weight, and condition
- the name of the product (ingredients and strengths if known)
- the time it was swallowed
- the amount swallowed
Poison Control, or a local emergency number
See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Take the container with you to the emergency room.
What to expect at the emergency room
If it is determined that there has been a detergent (corrosive alkalai) ingestion, some or all of the following procedures may be performed:
- For swallowed poison o Placement of a tube down the nose and into the stomach (a nasogastric tube, or an NG tube) to wash out the stomach o Activated charcoal administration o Endoscopy - the placement of a camera down the throat to see the extent of burns to the esophagus and the stomach o Give IV fluids o Admission to the hospital o Give an antidote o Treat the symptoms
- For inhaled poisons o A breathing tube may need to be inserted o Oxygen o Admission to the hospital or to the intensive care unit o Bronchoscopy (inserting a camera down the throat into the airway to evaluate the extent of burns to the airway and lungs)
- For skin exposure o Irrigation (washing of the skin), perhaps every few hours for several days o Skin debridement (surgical removal of burned skin) o Admission or transfer to a hospital that specializes in burn care
If there has been an ingestion of a corrosive alkali, extensive damage to the mouth, throat, esophagus, kidneys, and stomach may occur. These exposures can be fatal. If it is a non-toxic household dye, recovery is expected.
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.