Hair bleaches or lighteners

Definition 
Poisoning from ingestion of hair bleach.

Poisonous Ingredient 

     
  • Hydrogen peroxide  
  • Ethyl alcohol

Where Found 

     
  • Some hair bleaches  
  • Hydrogen peroxide

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Symptoms 

     
  • Body as a whole       o Unable to walk in a normal manner       o Slurred speech       o No urine output       o Collapse  
  • Respiratory       o Difficulty breathing (from inhalation or allergic reaction)  
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o Burning pain in the throat       o Blurred vision       o Burns to the eye  
  • Skin       o Rash  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Vomiting       o Abdominal pain       o Diarrhea (watery, bloody)  
  • Heart and blood vessels       o Low blood pressure  
  • Nervous system       o Stupor       o Coma

Home Treatment 
For any toxic exposure or allergic reaction, seek medical care immediately. Give the patient milk or water to dilute the aluminum salts, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider or the patient is unable to swallow (due to convulsions or unconsciousness).

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 
Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

     
  • Treat the allergic reaction with diphenhydramine and prednisone  
  • 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 (gastric lavage)       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 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

Expectations (prognosis) 
Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach are possible. The ultimate outcome depends on the extent of this damage. Damage can continue to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the alkali is swallowed. Death may occur up to a month after the alkali was swallowed.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

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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.