Hydrofluoric acid

Alternative names 
Fluohydric acid

Definition
Poisoning from an overdose of hydrofluoric acid.

Poisonous Ingredient
Hydrofluoric acid

Where Found

     
  • Used in glass etching  
  • Used in industry as a corrosive agent  
  • Used in the production of computer screens  
  • Used in fluorescent bulbs  
  • Used in the refinement of high octane gasoline

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Symptoms
From swallowing:

     
  • Body as a whole       o Severe pain in the mouth       o Fever  
  • Respiratory       o Inability to breathe as the throat swells shut  
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o Severe pain in the throat  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Severe abdominal pain       o Vomiting  
  • Heart and blood vessels       o Rapid drop in blood pressure       o ventricular fibrillation

From inhalation:

     
  • Body as a whole       o Chills       o Fever       o Tight chest  
  • Respiratory       o Coughing       o Pulmonary edema  
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o Choking  
  • Skin       o Bluish colored lips and fingernails

Home Treatment

DO NOT INDUCE EMESIS (VOMITING).

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

For extremities affected irrigate with water and transport to emergency department immediately.

If the acid is swallowed or inhaled, transport to the nearest emergency department immediately.

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
They will instruct you if it is necessary to take the person to the hospital. 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:

For swallowed poison:

     
  • Give fluids.  
  • Give milk of magnesia.  
  • Treat the symptoms.

For inhalation:

     
  • Treat the symptoms.

Expectations (prognosis)
The prognosis (probable outcome) depends on how rapidly the acid was diluted and neutralized. Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach are possible. The ultimate outcome depends on the extent of this damage. For inhalation patients, symptoms usually will resolve after 10 to 30 days.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, 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.