Welcome to Episode 62

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Tip of the Week– Antifreeze Poisonings ToxTidbit with Lisa Booze

According to poison center statistics, Ethylene Glycol poisonings accounted for about 14,000 calls to poison centers in the U.S. in 2005.  Because Ethylene Glycol is found in common household substances like antifreeze, this chemical is readily available for ingestion both accidentally and on purpose.  In fact, it is a common cause of injury in death in known alcohol abusers who mistake the alcohol chemical in this substance as ethanol.

Effective treatment and correction of these overdoses and poisonings hinges on rapid recognition of the cause so good history taking techniques are very important.  If the patient presents in the emergency department, it is important to talk with family members or bystanders who accompanied the patient before they leave if possible.  Patients who arrive by ambulance provide other resources for nurses since the EMS providers (EMTs and paramedics) can give clues about the condition of the patient’s surroundings and living conditions if found at home to determine and antifreeze poisoning is at hand.  The ambulance crew is also easier to contact after the patient has arrived if you have further questions.

Common signs and symptoms of Ethylene Glycol poisonings are often mistaken as common alcohol abuse because the early presentation is similar.  Make sure to ask the patient what they drank and try to get as straight an answer as possible to determine if they ingested Ethylene Glycol “by mistake.”  Later signs of Ethylene Glycol ingestion include nausea and vomiting, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypertension later followed by hypotension.  Eventually the patient becomes lethargic and will progress in to coma and eventual renal failure if not recognized and treated rapidly.

Sometimes Ethylene Glycol poisonings are mistaken for Methanol (wood alcohol) poisonings. Methanol shows the same kind of central nervous system and GI effects, however does not present with renal failure. Also, Methanol poisoning is often accompanied by visual disturbances due to the effects on the optic nerve.  Both poisonings will present with laboratory findings of severe anion gap metabolic acidosis.

For more information on this follow the links below which were used in the research of this article.

Toxicity, Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene Glycol Poisoning Overview

Antifreeze Poisoning

CDC on Ethylene Glycol and Propylene Glycol Toxicity


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2 Responses to Antifreeze Poisonings and Episode 62

  1. @rdjfraser says:

    Hi Jamie,

    I just got a chance to listen to the podcast while on my way to school today. Thanks for the shout out, and I’m really hoping to start the ball rolling soon on that Research Podcast. Really do appreciate the support and the great resource you are providing for nursing students and nurses! Keep up the great work!

    Rob Fraser

  2. admin says:


    It’s always great to hear from the listeners and site visitors. You are going to have a great show and I can’t wait to feature it here on the Nursing Show site and podcasts.

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