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Ethylene glycol poisoning, or antifreeze poisoning, occurs when a person or animal ingests antifreeze, a substance used in vehicle engines. During the first few hours after ingesting this substance, a person may have gastrointestinal problems and act intoxicated. As the body breaks the substance down further, high blood pressure and muscle spasms may also occur. Kidney and urination problems are also common symptoms of antifreeze poisoning.
Antifreeze is a substance used in vehicle radiators to lower the temperature of the engine. Ethylene glycol is used in most antifreeze on the market today. If ingested by a human, either accidentally or intentionally, this compound can cause a variety of side effects. It can be fatal in many cases.
Within the first few hours to a day after ingesting the substance, antifreeze can cause various gastrointestinal problems. Nausea and abdominal pain are common symptoms of poisoning, for instance. Some people may vomit as well.
People suffering from antifreeze poisoning may also act as though they are intoxicated. They may be uncoordinated or confused. Slurred speech and dizziness are also common symptoms of ethylene glycol intoxication.
As time passes, the body begins to break down the ethylene glycol even further, and different symptoms of antifreeze poisoning will become apparent. High blood pressure and muscle spasms may occur, along with breathing problems and irregular heartbeats. Some people will die at this point, if the poisoning is not treated, and organs may begin to shut down in others.
The kidneys are the organs most affected by this type of poisoning. Kidney problems will usually begin a few days after the antifreeze has been ingested. Pain may be felt in the sides of the lower back, where the kidneys are located. Some people experiencing antifreeze poisoning may also have very little urine, or blood may be present in their urine.
Antifreeze can be ingested either accidentally or intentionally. Since most antifreeze has a bright color and a sweet taste, children are especially attracted to it. Most parents are cautioned to keep antifreeze out of reach of children to avoid antifreeze poisoning. In a few instances, some people have even attempted to commit suicide by ingesting antifreeze.
Cats and dogs are also very susceptible to antifreeze poisoning. Like children, they seem to be attracted to the sweet taste of the substance. Antifreeze poisoning in pets will often lead to seizures, convulsions, and death.