Potassium hydroxide

Poisoning from exposure to potassium hydroxide.

Poisonous Ingredient 
Potassium hydroxide

Where Found 

  • Cuticle removal products  
  • Leather tanning chemicals  
  • Drain cleaners

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

From swallowing:

  • Body as a whole       o Severe pain in the mouth       o Collapse  
  • Breathing difficulties due to the throat swelling shut  
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o Burns in the mouth and throat       o Severe pain in the throat  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Severe Abdominal pain       o diarrhea  
  • Rapid drop in blood pressure

Home Treatment 

Seek emergency medical care immediately. DO NOT INDUCE Vomiting.

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

If the product is swallowed, give a large amount of water or milk IMMEDIATELY. If the patient is Vomiting, keep giving water or milk.

Before Calling Emergency 

Determine the following information:

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

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 

Anyone who ingests or is exposed to potassium hydroxide should seek emergency medical care immediately.

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 caustic material  
  • Treat the pain and symptoms  
  • Give IV fluids  
  • Upper GI endoscopy

Expectations (prognosis) 

The prognosis (probable outcome) depends on how rapidly the alkali was diluted and neutralized. Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach are possible. The ultimate outcome depends on the extent of this damage.

Damage continues to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the potassium hydroxide was swallowed, and death may occur as long as a month later.

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.