Antifreeze Poisoning

Antifreeze poisoning refers to the common methods of poisoning which contains ethylene glycol. This compound is used as a radiator fluid for cooling up engines in automobiles. Like lethal poisoning of arsenic, antifreeze poison can also become fatal if not treated immediately.

The organic compound ethylene glycol is very sweet in taste and hence consuming the poison becomes easy for the person who wants to commit suicide. It can also be mixed with alcohol for killing the person.

Unlike arsenic poison, antifreeze poison does not kill the person instantly and the process involves 3 stages. In the first stage (within 12 hours) of poisoning the ethylene glycol will affect nervous system and gastrointestinal system. The person will appear to be toxic showing dizziness, slurred speech, headache, confusion and nausea with vomiting. During the second stage of poisoning (from 12 to 36 hours) of the intake, the body metabolizes the glycol with other toxins and there will be increased heart rate and blood pressure. At this stage many people will get congestive heart failure and finally death.

In the final stage (from 24-72 hours) of consumption of poison, it would enter the red blood cells and reduce the production of urine, thereby increasing the potassium content in kidney causing acute failure of kidney causing death.

Treatment for antifreeze poisoning starts with stabilizing the patient. Within an hour of consumption the poison would get absorbed with gastric juices easily and hence inducing vomiting will not help the patient to recover. Firstly the patient should be comforted by providing breathing with intubation. Depending on the condition of the patient, he should be put on IV fluids and respiratory support. Next effective antidotes should be given to nullify the effects of poison. Finally hemodialysis is done for removing the contents of ethanol from the intestine tract.

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