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The dangers of drinking mouthwash include gastrointestinal upset, oral burns, and alcohol poisoning. Mouthwash is used to eliminate bacteria and odors from the mouth and is typically gargled or swished around the mouth before the user spits it out. Many mouthwashes are high in alcohol content and certain brands contain hydrogen peroxide and wood alcohol, which is also known as methyl alcohol. If consumed in certain amounts, methyl alcohol can cause organ damage and blindness.
Drinking mouthwash can also cause severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This can cause extreme dehydration and may require hospitalization for intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement. In addition, since certain mouthwash brands contain hydrogen peroxide, consuming mouthwash can cause burns and scarring of the throat and mouth. The chemicals in mouthwash are acidic in nature and have been known to cause irritation and tissue damage.
A severe consequence of drinking mouthwash is losing consciousness. Since many mouthwashes are high in alcohol content, drinking mouthwash can cause profound sleepiness, which may progress to unconsciousness in extreme situations. Other hazards of consuming mouthwash include low blood pressure, breathing difficulties, and rapid heart beat. Signs of mouthwash overdose can mimic those of intoxication and may include slurred speech, difficulty walking, and delayed reflexes.
Treatment for drinking mouthwash may include the administration of activated charcoal or laxatives. Doctors may wash out the stomach with a tube that has been passed through the mouth, order kidney dialysis, or insert a breathing tube. Prognosis in cases of mouthwash poisoning depends on how quickly a patient gets to the hospital. If the kidneys or liver have been affected, the prognosis may be poor, as it might for those who have pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, and cardiac conditions.
Children are especially susceptible to the effects of mouthwash, and bottles should always be kept in an inaccessible area, secured with child-proof caps. If a child accidentally swallows or drinks mouthwash, the local poison control center can be notified and emergency medical services should be called. Experts sometimes recommend inducing vomiting in poisoning cases, but substances that are very caustic or acidic may do more damage to the tissues when they come back up as a result of vomiting. Mouthwash can cause further injury to the throat and mouth if vomited, so it is generally not recommended.