Hydrochloric acid

Poisoning due to exposure to hydrochloric acid.

Poisonous Ingredient 

Hydrochloric acid

Where Found 

It is found in some soldering fluxes. It may also be found in other products.


Initial symptoms of hydrochloric acid poisoning may include pain in the mouth and under the breastbone, or persistent drooling. Hoarseness and stridor (harsh sound in breathing caused by air passing through constricted air passages) may indicate injury to the larynx, epiglottis, or throat.
Symptoms from swallowing hydrochloric acid:

  • Severe pain in the mouth  
  • Fever  
  • Difficulty with or inability to breathe due to swelling of the throat  
  • Severe pain in the throat  
  • Severe abdominal pain  
  • Vomiting blood (dark colored)  
  • Rapid drop in blood pressure

Symptoms from inhaling hydrochloric acid:

  • Weakness  
  • Tightness in the chest  
  • Coughing  
  • Shortness of breath  
  • Coughing up blood  
  • Choking  
  • Bluish color to lips and fingernails  
  • Low blood pressure  
  • Rapid pulse  
  • Dizziness

Home Treatment 

Seek emergency medical care immediately if you have been exposed to hydrochloric acid and are experiencing symptoms.


If the acid is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the acid was swallowed, give lots of water or milk IMMEDIATELY. If the person is vomiting, keep giving water or milk. Give 4 to 6 oz of milk of magnesia if on hand .

For inhalation poisoning, transport the person to an area of fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency 

Determine the following information:

  • The patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths if known)  
  • When it was swallowed or inhaled  
  • How much was swallowed or inhaled

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 
For any ingestion or exposure, seek emergency medical care immediately. See poison control centers for the national telephone number. Take any containers with you to the emergency room, if possible.

What to expect at the emergency room 

Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

For swallowed poison:

  • Fluids may be given.  
  • Milk of magnesia may be given.  
  • Other symptoms will be treated.

For inhaled poison:

  • Breathing tube may be inserted.  
  • Oxygen may be administered.  
  • Other symptoms will be treated.

Expectations (prognosis) 
The prognosis (probable outcome) depends on the amount and method of acid exposure. Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach are possible. The ultimate outcome depends on the extent of this damage. Drinking or inhaling hydrochloric acid may be fatal.

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.