Nitric acid poisoning

Definition

Nitric acid is a poisonous clear-to-yellow colored liquid. This article discusses poisoning from swallowing or breathing in nitric acid.

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 a local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

Nitric acid

Where Found

  • Fertilizers
  • Substances used to clean metals (such as gun barrels)

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Symptoms

Symptoms from swallowing nitric acid may include:

  • Abdominal pain - severe
  • Burns to skin or mouth
  • Fever
  • Mouth pain - severe
  • Rapid drop in blood pressure
  • Throat swelling, which leads to breathing difficulty
  • Throat pain - severe
  • Vomiting, bloody

Symptoms from breathing in (inhaling) nitric acid may include:

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. Give 4 to 6 ounces of milk of magnesia, if possible.

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

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the product (and ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed or inhaled
  • The amount swallowed or inhaled

However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. 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

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The patient may receive:

  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
  • Camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach (endoscopy)

Expectations (prognosis)

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

Revision

Last reviewed 2/1/2013 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 A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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