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Window cleaner

Definition

Window cleaner poisoning occurs when someone swallows or breathes in large amounts of window cleaner.

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 the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

Older window cleaners may contain:

  • Ammonia
  • Ethanol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Methanol

New types of window cleaners are considered safer.

Where Found

  • Glass Gleam
  • Sparkle Glass Cleaner
  • Squeegee Off
  • Windex

Note: This list does not include all types of glass cleaners.

Symptoms

Note: Most symptoms are seen with older window cleaners containing the toxic ingredients listed above.

  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Heart and blood
  • Lungs and airways
  • Nervous system
  • Skin

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. 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 information:

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

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national 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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing tube
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids by IV
  • Oxygen
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage )
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Expectations (prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

References

Jacobsen D, Hovda KE. Methanol, ethylene glycol, and other toxic alcohols. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. . 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 32.

Media

    Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.