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Q. My brother has breathing difficulty after drinking toilet cleaner as an act of suicide attempt. Please help.

Answered by
Dr. Nagaraj Patil
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on Aug 09, 2020

Hello doctor,

My brother is under psychiatric treatment and for the past few days, he had suicidal thoughts and yesterday, he drank 100 ml of toilet cleaner. We took him to the nearby hospital and got his stomach clear. His pulse and BP were normal and doctor prescribed syrup Ulgel and asked to give for every two hours. We brought back home, but he could not sleep yesterday night. If he lies down, he finds difficulty in breathing and cough is coming. Now he could not breathe normally and wheeze sound is coming while exhaling. Is this normal? Please let us know what is to be done.

Dr. Nagaraj Patil

General Medicine Internal Medicine


Welcome to

As he drank a chemical (toilet cleaner is an acidic chemical), he will have erosions in his stomach leading to acid secretion. This acid may regurgitate through food pipe when he lies down to cause cough. There is a possibility of aspiration (entry of chemical into the lungs) leading to damage to part of lung and pneumonia (which is called chemical pneumonitis in medical terms). However, this develops over 24-48 hours. If this has happened, he will have breathing difficulty and wheezing sounds. Continue to use Ulgel as your doctor suggested. Get a chest x-ray done to see if he has developed pneumonia. If yes, he should be started on antibiotics.

As you mentioned, your brother is on treatment for psychiatric conditions. Advised to keep your psychiatrist informed on this. He may look into the medications prescribed as certain antipsychotics known to produce suicidal thoughts in patients in the initial few weeks of starting treatment. Let us connect again once the chest x-ray is done.

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