Poisoning windshield liquid (methanol)

General or Other | Emergency Medicine | Poisoning windshield liquid (methanol) (Disease)


Windshield washer fluid is a brightly colored liquid made of methanol, a poisonous alcohol. Some young children may mistake the fluid for juice, which can lead to accidental poisoning. Even small amounts can cause significant damage. Symptoms and signs are: abdominal pain, blindness, bluish skin (lips and fingernails), blurred vision, breathing - rapid, shallow, breathing – stopped, coma, confusion, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, fatigue, headache, leg cramps, nausea, seizures, vomiting, weakness.

Causes and Risk factors

Methanol, the main ingredient in windshield washing fluid, is extremely poisonous. As little as 2 tablespoons can be deadly to a child. About 2 to 8 ounces can be deadly for an adult. Blindness is common and often permanent despite medical care.

The ultimate outcome depends on how much poison was swallowed and how soon treatment was received. Although many windshield washer fluids are a watered-down form of methanol, they can still be dangerous if swallowed.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment for methanol poisoning is fairly intensive. Many patients have a nasal-gastric tube inserted with activated charcoal, which helps “pump the stomach. ” Patients are observed for sharp declines in blood pressure, seizures, or stopping breathing. It is quite common for people to need dialysis, and most people are also given an antidote to methanol in the form of ethanol. As symptoms develop, other medications, like anticonvulsants may be needed. Many people require breathing support like a respirator. ...

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