Chlorine bleach is useful for disinfecting bath tubs, shower tile, counter tops and even floors. Bleach is also used to remove stains and to keep your white clothing bright no matter how many times it's been put through the wash. Bleach, however, can be incredibly harmful if used improperly or placed in the wrong hands--like those of children.
Bleach can poison people in different ways. You can experience bleach poisoning by ingesting or inhaling the chemical, or from having the chemical on the skin. Many people suffer from bleach ingestion poisonings each year. Some inadvertently swallow bleach while dying their hair. As the bleach is washed from the hair, it can drip into the mouth causing poisoning. Inhaling too much bleach, especially when cleaning, can cause a mild form of poisoning. Also, your skin can be poisoned from bleach exposure. This is seen quite often in those who leave the chemical in their hair too long while attempting to dye it. The bleach can splash into the eyes and onto the skin, causing skin poisoning.
Symptoms are different depending on what type of poisoning you have; all, however, should be taken seriously. Ingestion poisoning symptoms often include vomiting, severe sore throat, nausea, trouble breathing, excessive drooling and slurred speech. Inhalation poisoning often includes nausea, a burning sensation in your nose and vomiting. If bleach gets into your eyes, they will become severely irritated, red and loss of eyesight can occur in extreme cases. For skin poisonings, the skin will become irritated, red and a rash may form. In severe cases, especially with scalp poisonings, the skin will blister and bleed.
Although many people can be poisoned by bleach, most affected are children. According to the Kiddopotamus website, "more than 240,000 children are reported taken to Emergency Rooms each year due to poisoning from household chemicals...and more than 35 children die each year from accidental poisonings in the house." Kiddopotamus reports that children up to 5 years old are at the greatest risk of poisoning (especially those between the ages of 1 and 2).
Should you or someone you know have suspected bleach poisoning, there are a few things you should do. For serious poisonings--like ingestion poisoning and eye poisonings--call 9-1-1 immediately to rush the victim to the hospital. The victim should be turned on his back with his head tilting back. If the eyes have been poisoned, flush them out repeatedly with cool water until help has arrived. Also, try to gather as much information as possible, such as: what type of bleach it was, how much was ingested and how long the poison has been in the system. For less severe poisonings--like skin poisonings and inhalation poisonings--call Poison Control Centers first to be instructed on what to do.
The best way to prevent poisoning is to always keep bleach, and all other household products, away from where children can reach. Never leave an opened bottle of bleach on the floor--even for several seconds. Explain to your children the possible injuries and death that can occur if bleach and other chemicals are improperly handled. Teach your teens that bleach should never be used to dye or strip hair. When cleaning or working with bleach, always wear a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands and arms from possible splashing.