Cloth dye poisoning

Definition

Cloth dyes are chemicals used to color cloth. Cloth dye poisoning occurs when someone swallows large amounts of these substances.

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

Dyes - cloth

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Corrosive alkali

Today it is rare to find this poisonous ingredient in most household cloth dyes.

Most common household cloth dyes are made from nonpoisonous substances, such as:

  • Mild soaps
  • Pigments
  • Salts

Although these substances are generally considered not dangerous, they can cause problems if swallowed in large amounts, especially in small children.

Where Found

  • Certain dyes to color cloth or fabric

Symptoms

  • Airways and lungs
    • Breathing difficulty (from breathing in the dye)
    • Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)
  • Blood
    • Severe change in acid level of blood (pH balance), which leads to damage in all of the body organs
  • 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
  • Heart and blood
  • Skin
    • Burns
    • Holes (necrosis) in the skin or tissues underneath
    • Irritation

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

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 patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

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

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

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

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

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

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

What to expect at the emergency room

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 tube
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids by IV
  • Medicines to treat pain
  • Oxygen
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Expectations (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.

If the poisoning involved a corrosive alkali, extensive damage may occur to the:

  • Esophagus
  • Kidneys
  • Mouth
  • Stomach
  • Throat

The outcome depends on the extent of this damage.

If you swallowed a nonpoisonous household dye, you should recover.

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.

Review Date:2/28/2012

Reviewed by:Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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