Windshield washer fluid is a brightly colored liquid made of methanol, a poisonous alcohol. Some young children may mistake the fluid for juice, which can lead to accidental poisoning. Even small amounts can cause significant damage. This article discusses poisoning from swallowing windshield washer fluid.
See also: Methanol poisoning
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.
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 possible, determine the following information:
However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.
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.
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive:
Methanol, the main ingredient in windshield washing fluid, is extremely poisonous. As little as 2 tablespoons can be deadly to a child. About 2 to 8 ounces can be deadly for an adult. Blindness is common and often permanent despite medical care.
The ultimate outcome depends on how much poison was swallowed and how soon treatment was received.
Although many windshield washer fluids are a watered-down form of methanol, they can still be dangerous if swallowed.
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Goldfrank LR, ed. Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. 8th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2006.