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Calcium hydroxide poisoning

Definition

Calcium hydroxide is a white powder produced by mixing calcium oxide ("lime") with water. Calcium hydroxide poisoning occurs when someone swallows this substance.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Hydrate - calcium; Lime milk; Slaked lime

Poisonous Ingredient

Calcium hydroxide

Where Found

  • Cement
  • Limewater
  • Many industrial solvents and cleaners (hundreds to thousands of construction products, flooring strippers, brick cleaners, cement thickening products, and many others)
  • This is a common ingredient in many hair relaxers/straighteners
  • Slaked lime

Note: This list may not include all sources of calcium hydroxide.

Symptoms

Eyes, ears, nose, and throat:

  • Loss of vision
  • Severe pain in the throat
  • Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue

Gastrointestinal system:

Heart and blood:

  • Collapse
  • Low blood pressure that develops rapidly
  • Too much or too little acid in the blood (leads to organ damage)

Lungs and airways:

  • Breathing difficulty (from breathing in substance)
  • Throat swelling (which may also cause breathing difficulty)

Skin:

  • Burns
  • Holes (necrosis) in the skin or tissues underneath
  • Irritation

Home Care

Get medical help right away. Do NOT make the person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

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

If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Swallowing this poison can have severe effects on many parts of the body. If a chemical burn occurred in the eye, permanent blindness can result.

Damage continues to occur to the esophagus and stomach for several weeks after the poison was swallowed.

References

Wax PM, Yarema M. Corrosives. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 98.

Wax PM, Young A. Caustics. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls, RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2013:chap 153.


Review Date: 2/1/2014
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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