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Oven cleaner poisoning

This article discusses the harmful effects from swallowing or breathing in an oven cleaner.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

Corrosive alkalis

Where Found

Oven cleaners are sold under various brand names. Some include:

  • Easy-Off oven cleaner
  • Mr. Muscle oven and grill cleaner

This list is not all-inclusive.

Symptoms

Oven cleaner poisoning can cause symptoms in many parts of the body.

AIRWAYS AND LUNGS

  • Breathing difficulty -- from breathing in fumes
  • Throat swelling -- may also cause breathing difficulty

EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT

  • Severe pain in the throat
  • Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
  • Vision loss

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody stools
  • Burns and possible holes of the esophagus (food pipe)
  • Vomiting, possibly bloody

HEART AND BLOOD

  • Collapse
  • Low blood pressure -- develops rapidly (shock)
  • Severe change in blood acid level -- leads to organ damage

SKIN

  • Burns
  • Holes in the skin or underlying tissues
  • Irritation

Home Care

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

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 provider.

If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move them to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

Get the following information:

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

Poison Control

Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This 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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support, including oxygen through a tube into the lungs, and a breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to look for burns in the airways and lungs (if the poison was aspirated)
  • Chest x-ray
  • ECG (heart tracing)
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to look for burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Medicine to reverse the effect of the poison and treat symptoms
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to aspirate (suck out) the stomach. This is done only when the person gets medical care within 30 to 45 minutes of the poisoning, and a very large amount of the substance has been swallowed
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. Burns in the airway or gastrointestinal tract can lead to tissue death. This may result in infection, shock and death, even several months after substance was swallowed. Scar tissue in the affected areas can lead to long-term problems with breathing, swallowing, and digestion.

References

Hoyte C. Caustics. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 148.

Theobald JL, Kostic MA. Poisoning. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 77.

Review Date 9/26/2019

Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.