Close look on windshield washer fluid poisoning

Windshield washer fluid is a chemical solvent utilized for cleaning automobile windshields with a wiper. The chemical is sprayed onto the glass using a pump.

These fluids are usually bright in color, viscous and thick. Remember that it is highly toxic since most include methanol which is a deadly form of alcohol. Various types of the fluid might include chemicals such as ethanol or ethylene glycol and other compounds.

How does poisoning occur?

Poisoning from windshield washer fluid can occur in the following ways:

  • Ingestion or swallowing of the fluid
  • Exposure of the eyes and skin that can lead to injuries
  • Inhalation of the vapors of the fluid

The intake or exposure can occur by accident or intentional in some cases.

What are the signs?

Sneezing Coughing Outdoors2

Vision irregularities such as blurry vision or vision loss.

The indications of windshield washer fluid poisoning tend to vary from one individual to another. It might be mild in some and severe in others.

Different body systems can be affected. The usual indications of poisoning might include the following:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Slurred speech
  • Low response level
  • Difficulty walking properly or poor coordination
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Bluish discoloration of the lips and beneath the fingernails
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heart rate and rhythm
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle cramping particularly in the legs
  • Vision irregularities such as blurry vision or vision loss
  • Loss of consciousness and coma

Management of windshield washer fluid poisoning

The initial step is to call for emergency assistance right away. While waiting for the emergency team to arrive, the following must be done:

  • The individual should be moved to a site with access to fresh air right away.
  • Check if he/she is breathing and there is a pulse rate present. Perform CPR if needed.
  • Do not try to induce vomiting unless given instructions to do so by a healthcare professional.
  • In case the eyes have been in contact with the windshield washer fluid, the affected eye must be carefully flushed with water.
  • Try to bring the container of the chemical to the emergency department.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on windshield washer fluid poisoning is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications and how it is managed, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.


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