What are the symptoms of bleach poisoning?

The symptoms of bleach poisoning depend on the exposure and the form of contact with the product. Keep reading and learn how to act in these situations.

Last update: April 11, 2022

Symptoms of bleach poisoning will depend on how the contact with said substance has been, that is, if it was inhaled, ingested, or splashed into the eyes. In this sense, there may be burning and redness of the skin or mucous membranes, nausea, cough, sore throat and even arrhythmia.

Bleach is widely used when cleaning at home. However, it must be used with care, since its main component is sodium hypochlorite.

In this article we explain the most common symptoms of bleach poisoning, what to do if we accidentally inhale or ingest it, and how to use this product correctly in order to prevent domestic accidents.

What is bleach and what is it used for?

Lavandina, in some countries is also known as bleach either sodium hypochlorite, is an aqueous solution based on said substance. This chemical can be present in cleaning and laundry supplies, bleach, and water purifiers.

Their concentrations in household products vary from 3% to 6%. Those used in swimming pools can reach 10%.

Bleach is useful in household cleaning, applied in places where bacteria accumulate the most, from the kitchen and bathroom to bedrooms and the basement. Similarly, to disinfect laboratory materials (non-metallic or that do not contain organic material), as well as on various surfaces or fomites in sanitary spaces.

Due to its characteristics, It is considered adequate to eliminate microbes, fungi and other microorganisms.achieving disinfection and minimizing the risk of contracting or spreading diseases.

Symptoms of bleach poisoning

Despite all these cleaning benefits, if not used correctly it can be dangerous. Not only for the person who is handling it, but for the children and even the pets in the house.

It is appropriate to point out that, at home, misuse can result from mixing sodium hypochlorite with other substances, such as hydrochloric acid or ammonia. This is one of the common mistakes made when cleaning with bleach.

On the other hand, the symptoms of bleach poisoning can vary depending on the form of contact, the area of ​​the body exposed, the concentration of the substance, as well as the time of exposure.

Lavandina is widely distributed throughout the world. It is bought in supermarkets and small shops.

Skin contact

In household products, sodium hypochlorite is at 5%. Sometimes less. Even in these aqueous solutions, bleach can irritate the skin of people with sensitivities, causing burning or redness.

But at higher concentrations, hypochlorite behaves like an alkaline caustic, which becomes corrosive. It causes burns and blisters in the affected area.

Interestingly, 0.05% bleach baths are used for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. This appears to have anti-inflammatory effects and helps improve symptomsreducing the concentration of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureuswithout resorting to corticosteroids or topical antibiotics.

Eye contact

In the eyes and other mucous membranes, when combined with proteins and fats, the chemical action of sodium hypochlorite on the tissues is direct. Burns, burning and sensation of intense pain may occur; but in less severe cases there is redness, swelling and tearing.


As mentioned, the mixture of bleach with other products, whether domestic or industrial, produces a reaction in which chlorine vapors are released.

Inhaling them can trigger various reactions:

  • At one part per million (1 ppm), in sensitive individuals, irritation of the nasal mucosa occurs, ocular and pharyngealas well as runny nose, cough, choking sensation, tearing and dryness.
  • At 30 ppm, even short exposures, chest pain, nausea, and vomitingrespiratory rhythm disturbance, coughing fits, headache.
  • At 40 ppm or more, edema of the glottis may occur.pain in the pleura, obstructive bronchitis and shortness of breath.
  • In the most severe cases, hypoxemia and pulmonary edema occur.


In the case of ingestion, accidental or intentional, the symptoms of bleach poisoning will also depend on the concentration, as well as the amount ingested. With domestic products at 5%, the following signs are presented:

  • Stomachache.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Ulcers in the mucous membranes.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Burns in the esophagus, mouth, or throat.

Even though a review carried out in 2018 indicates an average of 45,000 annual cases of bleach poisoning in the United States, only 1 death is reported in four years.

What to do in case of bleach poisoning?

If someone accidentally ingests bleach, you must first of all remain calm. Under no circumstances should vomiting be induced.as this could further irritate the mucous membranes.

It is also not recommended to use a nasogastric tube, do intestinal lavage, administer activated carbon or neutralize using alkalis or acids. At most you should rinse your mouth with water.

And if swallowing difficulties are not experienced, you can drink water slowly to dilute the concentration of the product. Or even small sips of milk.

But this is not advisable if it has been more than an hour after intake and the person cannot swallow. Or if attempts to swallow trigger coughing fits.

In patients who do not present digestive symptoms, a gastric protector can be recommended. Those with symptoms must undergo some tests and remain under treatment for several days.

On the other hand, when hypochlorite has come into contact with the skin, all clothing should be removed and the affected area washed with plenty of water. In the ocular mucous membranes, physiological solution can be used.

If a child is suspected of having ingested bleach, they should be taken immediately to a hospital ward.

All cases of bleach poisoning require immediate medical attention.

How to prevent bleach poisoning?

All this we’ve seen so far does not mean that we stop using the product. However, we must take some measures to prevent bleach poisoning.

Among these measures we have the following:

  • Open windows before you start cleaning so the space is ventilated.
  • Wear a mask or chinstrap to reduce the chances of inhalation.
  • Wear protective clothing. Better pants and shirts with long sleeves to avoid contact with the skin.
  • Wear work gloves that they are thick.

Bleach should not be mixed with any other cleaning product. And last but not least, store this and other substances out of the reach of children and pets.

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