Hydrochloric acid is a clear, poisonous liquid. It is a caustic chemical and highly corrosive, which means it immediately causes severe damage to tissues, such as burning, on contact.
This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Hydrochloric acid is found in:
This list is not all-inclusive.
Symptoms from swallowing hydrochloric acid may include:
Symptoms from breathing in hydrochloric acid:
If the poison touches your skin or eyes, you may have:
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 the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. DO NOT give water or milk if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.
If possible, determine the following information:
However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This hotline 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 person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The person may receive:
Note: Activated charcoal does not effectively treat (adsorb) hydrochloric acid.
For skin exposure, treatment may include:
How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
The person may need to stay in the hospital for more treatment. Swallowing poison can have severe effects on many parts of the body. Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach are possible. Holes (perforations) in the esophagus and stomach may result in serious infections in the chest and abdominal cavities, which may result in death. Surgery may be needed to repair the perforations. Cancer of the esophagus is a high risk in people who live after ingesting hydrochloric acid.
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.