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Ethylene Glycol Intoxication

Alternate Names

  • ethylene glycol poisoning

Definition

Ethylene glycol is a common ingredient in antifreeze and windshield de-icer. If eaten or swallowed, it is poisonous.

What is going on in the body?

Ethylene glycol is very toxic. Every year, many people and animals are accidentally poisoned by ethylene glycol.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Eating or drinking ethylene glycol causes poisoning. Ethylene glycol is found in antifreeze and windshield de-icer and in other products. It tastes a very sweet and pets and children can ingest it by accident. Small amounts can be toxic.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Antifreeze and windshield de-icer should be kept out of the reach of children and pets. Ethylene glycol should not be spilled on the ground where it can be accidentally swallowed.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

Laboratory exams done at the emergency room will test for too much acid in the blood. This condition is called metabolic acidosis. Certain crystals will also be found in the blood. Many antifreezes have a dye added to them. A black lamp will show this dye in the urine. There is also a test for ethylene glycol.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Long-term effects depend on the amount of ethylene glycol swallowed and how much time goes by before treatment is started. Kidney failure, congestive heart failure, heart damage and death can occur.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

This is not a contagious disease.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Upon arrival at the emergency room, sodium bicarbonate may be given to correct the acidosis of the blood. The stomach may be pumped and cleaned if no more than 30 minutes have passed since swallowing.
The medication fomepizole (i.e., Antizol, an antidote) may be given through an intravenous line into the arm. Some drugs can help change some of the toxic byproducts in the body. Dialysis may be done in cases of severe poisoning and if heart or kidney failure is likely.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

The most common side effects associated with fomeprizole are dizziness, headache, and nausea. Sodium bicarbonate can cause stomach cramps, bloating, and excessive thirst.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

An individual can die from ethylene glycol poisoning. There can also be kidney failure and congestive heart failure that lingers after recovery.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

The healthcare professional can monitor ethylene glycol levels and kidney function in individuals who have been poisoned with ethylene glycol.

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