What is ammonia sickness?

Answer

MedlinePlus explains that ammonia sickness, otherwise known as ammonia poisoning, occurs when large amounts of the substance enter the body through the nose, mouth or skin. As one of the most widely produced chemicals in the United States, anhydrous ammonia is available in gas and liquid form. The New York State Department of Health adds that humans, plants and animals also produce ammonia naturally as a by-product of many bacterial processes.

If ammonia is inhaled, MelinePlus recommends moving the affected person to fresh air. The site also recommends drinking milk or water for cases in which the poison is swallowed. Vomiting should not be induced unless a medical professional gives explicit instructions to do so. Since ammonia can cause extreme respiratory distress, medical attention following an overdose is always necessary. In some cases, an endoscopic evaluation is performed several hours after the incident to rule out damage to the esophagus, trachea and bronchial tubes.

Commonly found in household cleaners and fertilizers, MedlinePlus reports that ammonia can cause various symptoms when ingested in large quantities, including coughing, chest pain, wheezing, difficulty breathing, watery eyes, burning eyes, sore throat, facial swelling, temporary blindness, rapid pulse, shock, altered mental state, fever, vomiting, severe burns, stomach pain and agitation.

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