Nitric acid

Poisoning from exposure to nitric acid.

Poisonous Ingredient 

Nitric acid

Where Found 

  • Agents used to clean metals (such as gun barrels)  
  • Electroplating systems  
  • Fertilizer manufacturing

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

From swallowing:

  • Body as a whole       o Severe pain in the mouth       o Burns to skin or mouth       o Fever  
  • Respiratory       o Inability to breathe due to the throat swelling shut       o Severe pain in the throat  
  • Ggastrointestinal       o Severe Abdominal pain       o Vomit containing dark-colored blood  
  • Rapid drop in blood pressure

From inhalation:

  • Body as a whole       o Weakness       o Tight chest  
  • Respiratory       o Coughing       o Shortness of breath       o Coughing up blood  
  • Choking  
  • Bluish colored lips and fingernails  
  • Heart and blood vessels       o Low Blood pressure       o Rapid pulse  
  • Dizziness

Home Treatment 

DO NOT INDUCE Vomiting. 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 water or milk IMMEDIATELY. If the patient is Vomiting, keep giving water or milk. Give milk of magnesia, 4 to 6 oz., if possible.

For inhalation poisoning, move the patient to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency 
Determine the following:

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

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 

The Poison Control or local emergency telephone representative will instruct you if it is necessary to take the patient to the hospital. 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:

  • Support the patient’s airway and breathing  
  • Dilute or neutralize the acid  
  • Treat the pain and symptoms  
  • Upper GI endoscopy

Expectations (prognosis) 
The prognosis (probable outcome) depends on the amount and route of acid exposure. Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach are possible. The ultimate outcome depends on the extent of this damage.

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.