Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning In Humans

Antifreeze is an agent added to a water based liquid to reduce the heat in automobile engines. It is also called as a coolant and is commonly used for cars and other vehicles. Antifreeze poisoning in humans is caused by the consumption of antifreeze by humans either accidently or intentionally. Antifreeze mainly contains ethylene glycol and sometimes even methanol and isopropanol. Some of the poisonous components of antifreeze are ethylene glycol and propylene glycol.

Antifreeze poisoning can lead to harmful effects and the main purpose is the consumption of the compounds present in it. Ethylene glycol is moderately toxic and tastes sweet being a colorless and odorless liquid. Propylene glycol just like ethylene glycol is also sweet in taste and odorless. It is mainly used to produce polymers and in the processing of foods. Propylene glycol is miscible with a lot of solvents and is moderately toxic as well.

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning In Humans

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning In Humans. How is it Caused?

Some common symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in humans include

  • Hyperventilation –Hyperventilation or rapid breathing is the most common symptom of antifreeze poisoning, often caused by anxiety or panic. The breathing pattern of lungs changes completely during hyperventilation which may result in over breathing or absolutely no breathing or even choking in some cases.
  • Hematuria –Hematuria can be described as the presence of blood in urine. It may not be noticed by the naked eye but can be traced in urine tests as the amount of blood in urine is usually very small. It can be caused by any kidney problem or by the intake of any poisonous material.
  • Kidney Pain –Kidney pain is usually confused with back pain due to the location of kidney in our bodies. This is one of the most common symptom of antifreeze poisoning in humans, caused due to damage to the kidneys after consuming the poisonous liquid.
  • Bad Vision – As an effect of antifreeze poison, the person can suffer from lack of vision that may later turn into blindness in some cases.
  • Nausea and Vomiting – Nausea is discomfort in the upper part of the stomach and creates an urge to vomit in the human body. Nausea has many possible causes like food poisoning, certain diseases and is also a symptom of antifreeze poisoning in humans due to components of antifreeze like ethylene glycol, methanol or propylene glycol.
  • Abdominal Pain – The abdominal area is affected and can have pain due to ingestion of the poisonous compounds in antifreeze liquid. Continuous and severe pain in the abdominal area is a common symptom of antifreeze poisoning in humans.
  • Dizziness – Dizziness in most cases is caused due to nausea, abnormal heartbeats or high blood pressure. Dizziness may be associated with fainting or feeling of loss of balance. Dizziness in itself is not a disease but is a symptom for a lot of serious diseases which include antifreeze poisoning in humans.
  • Lack of Alertness – Lack of alertness or stupor maybe caused due to unresponsiveness or slow responsiveness of the nervous system of the body. This is caused due to the effects of the poisonous liquid on the nervous system and in severe cases it may result into coma.
  • Change in Lip and Nail Color–Change in colour of lips and finger nails into blue colour should not be confused with just weakness there may be more severe after effects of it. One of which may be antifreeze poisoning in humans.
  • Fatigue – Fatigue is the state of tiredness, lack of energy and unwillingness to do any task. It is a common symptom but may be caused by more serious diseases.
  • Convulsions – Convulsions or seizures cause shaking of muscles in a rhythmic pattern making it contract and relax often. It is an important symptom of antifreeze poisoning, due to possible damage to the nervous system. Convulsions should not be ignored as they may be a symptom of antifreeze poisoning in humans.
  • Decrease in Urine output – Consumption of antifreeze results in decreased production of urine in the human body. While in some cases the production of urine may fall, in others the production usually stops which may cause death within 24 hours.

Treatment of Antifreeze Poisoning

Treatment of antifreeze poisoning is possible, if symptoms are spotted and timely action is taken. It is first essential to stabilize the patient to begin with the treatment of antifreeze poisoning. Commonly used antidotes for antifreeze poisoning are fomepizole or ethanol, if fomepizole is not available. Fomepizole is very effective if antifreeze poisoning is detected at the earliest and given in time. If the treatment is delayed it usually takes more time to cure. Recovery depends on the damage caused and the severity of the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning.

What is Fomepizole and How Does It Help Treat Antifreeze Poisoning in Humans?

Fomepizole is one of the most important basic medications needed for basic health structure as stated by World Health Organisation.

Fomepizole is also known as 4-methylpyrazole that is an antidote for methanol or ethylene glycol poisoning. Fomepizole helps to breakdown the toxins to their active toxic metabolites. It is a very competitive inhibitor of alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme that is found in the liver.

The enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase plays a vital role in the metabolism of methanol and ethylene glycol. Fomepizole metabolizes ethylene glycol and methanol into glycoaldehyde and formaldehyde respectively.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 23, 2017

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