The Doctors discuss a man who made an awful mistake: he swallowed what he thought was a pain killer but was actually a bleach tablet. The man spent two weeks in the ICU hooked up to a feeding tube. ER physician Dr. Travis Stork explains this pill is so corrosive it can literally burn through the esophagus. This man felt the burning right away but it was too late to pull the pill out.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon says the mucosal lining is so sensitive that anything too acidic or alkaline can cause major damage to those cells. Once damaged, the tissue will heal with scarring which could lead to shrinkage of the airway and the esophagus.
Unfortunately, there is no antidote with these corrosive substances. The man ended up incubated having to wait for the tissue to heal over time. The Doctors show photos of a normal mucosa lining and one with damage to illustrate the severe difference.
Dr. Travis says if you are in a situation like this, the number one thing you should do is call poison control. A lot of people may try to induce vomiting but all that does is bring the substance back into the esophagus, creating more damage. The number for poison control is 1-800-222-1222. There is an entire field within emergency medicine called toxicology and they are manning poison control centers 24 hours a day.
Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra says you can take a little water or milk to try and wash out what is already in contact with the mucosa but the number one thing to do is call poison control and then 911. Dr. Travis notes that sometimes symptoms are delayed but if you can get yourself help before the symptoms occur it could save your life.