Sulfuric acid

Alternative names 
Battery acid

This is poisoning from an overdose of sulfuric acid.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • sulfuric acid

Where Found

  • car battery acid  
  • some toilet bowl cleaners  
  • chemical munitions  
  • some fertilizers

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


Initial symptoms would include severe pain on tissue contact and, if swallowed, there may be speech problems, drooling, vomiting, bloody vomit, abdominal pain, or burns on the mouth and throat.

From swallowing:

  • body as a whole       o severe pain in the mouth       o fever  
  • respiratory       o breathing difficulty due to throat swelling  
  • eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o severe pain in the throat  
  • gastrointestinal       o severe abdominal pain       o vomit containing dark colored blood  
  • heart and blood vessels       o rapid development of low blood pressure

From inhalation:

  • body as a whole       o weakness       o chest pain (tightness)  
  • respiratory       o coughing       o breathing difficulty (sensation of not getting enough air)       o shortness of breath       o coughing up blood  
  • eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o choking  
  • skin       o bluish skin, lips, and fingernails  
  • heart and blood vessels       o low blood pressure       o rapid pulse  
  • nervous system:       o dizziness

Home Treatment


Seek emergency medical care immediately.

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

If swallowed, drink water or milk IMMEDIATELY. Give 4-7 oz. milk of magnesia, if on hand. (If the patient is vomiting or appears altered, DO NOT give liquids.)

For inhalation poisoning, remove the patient to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • the patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • the name of the product (as well as the ingredients and strength if known)  
  • the time it was swallowed  
  • the amount swallowed  
  • Call 911, Poison Control, or the local emergency number:

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:       o Give fluids.       o Give milk of magnesia.       o Treat the symptoms.       o Antibiotics.       o Surgical repair if indicated.  
  • For inhalation:       o Treat the symptoms.       o Intubation (breathing tube).

Expectations (prognosis)

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

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.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.