What to Do if Your Child Drinks Bleach?

Preventing accidents from occurring due to the ingestion of products such as bleach or similar products depends on prevention. If it happens, acting quickly and correctly is the best thing you can do for your child.
What to Do if Your Child Drinks Bleach?

Written by Thady Carabaño

Last update: 25 July, 2022

If your child has consumed bleach, you’re probably on your way to the emergency department instead of reading this article. And of course, that’s what you should be doing.

However, if you’re just curious, then read this article to get informed on ways to prevent this from happening and prepare yourself mentally to know what to do in case your child drinks bleach or other toxic cleaning products. Prevention is better than cure.

How do these products poison children?

The consumption of toxic products like bleach and other cleaning solutions have severe consequences. These effects can also occur just by breathing the vapors emitted by these products or by direct contact with the skin.


Emergency services are a must in order to avoid esophageal or stomach injuries if your child has been poisoned by any of these toxic agents, as this information from SEGHNP Diagnostic and Therapeutic Protocols in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition points out. Bleach, cleaning products, cosmetic products, or personal hygiene products are all considered to be toxic.

This is because they contain chemical compounds that are known to produce severe tissue damage, similar to the effects of direct heat.

In most cases children consume bleach or other products like it by accident. However, if a teenager or adult consume it, most likely it was a suicide attempt and the patient will require extra emergency medical intervention.

How can you prevent this from happening?

Children usually consume toxic chemicals because an adult leaves a container, that looks similar to one they would drink from, out in the open within the child’s reach.

The child recognizes the container and sips the contents. Home safety depends on prevention. Read the following to prevent accidents from happening:

  • Avoid leaving toxic products (bleach, ammonia, detergent, shampoo) in a child’s reach.
  • Prevent your child from recognizing a re-used container as something edible. Keep toxic products stored away in their original containers so you can read the manufacturer’s instructions in case they are consumed.
  • Limit the use of toxic products in children’s play areas, because intoxication can also occur through the respiratory tract or skin.
  • White vinegar is highly recommended to be used as a cleaning product around the house. This is a potent anti-bacterial agent that won’t create toxic fumes or damage the skin, even if there is direct contact.

What should you do if your child has consumed bleach?

The first thing you must do is remain calm. Panicking instead of helping will only make things worse. Your child needs you to act decisively. Fundamental first aid includes:

  • Never induce vomiting – this causes the injury to repeat itself when the product returns through the esophagus.
  • Don’t give your child any food or drink – no water, milk, or egg whites. There is no homemade solution for this type of event.
  • Contact the E.D. in your community.
  • Get your child to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.
  • Take the container of the substance your child ingested.

If your child is very young, most likely he/she only drank a very small amount. The taste is unpleasant, because manufacturers usually add bitter substances to prevent people from drinking them by mistake.

Symptoms of consuming toxic substances

A sick child
If you have a small child and don’t know if he/she has consumed bleach or something like it, then check to see if your child has the following symptoms:
  • Immediate discomfort or pain in the mouth and throat
  • Difficulty swallowing and hoarseness
  • Nausea and vomiting, with or without blood
  • Difficulty breathing and sharp sounds when breathing
  • Chest pain

If your child goes into shock (mental confusion, loses consciousness, sweating, is pale, has cold hands and feet), you must act very quickly.

Ingestion of toxic cleaning products

Remember: the most important thing to do in these types of cases is going immediately to the nearest emergency room. If your child intentionally consumes toxic substance and survived, then make sure he/she starts receiving psychological counseling.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.