Common household alkalis include indigestion tablets (antacids), bleach, toothpaste, baking powder, cream cleaner, oven cleaner, metal polish and alkaline batteries. They can have moderate to severe levels of toxicity.
Alkalis react with acids and neutralize them. For example, indigestion tablets neutralize excess stomach acid. Alkalis such as bleach, oven cleaner and cream cleaner are stronger, corrosive and can damage the proteins that build hair and grease. Baking powder contains both an alkali and acid. When mixed in a solution, the ingredients react and produce carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which expand and make the baking mix rise.
Alkaline products usually have little odor or taste, increasing the likelihood of large ingestions occurring and causing more harm. In contrast, acids cause immediate, sharp pain, so only negligible quantities may be ingested. Ingesting large quantities of alkalis may cause symptoms such as serious injury to the skin, eyes, respiratory system and gastrointestinal tract. Other symptoms may include drooling, difficulty swallowing, squinting of eyes, difficulty breathing, pawing at the mouth, vomiting, abdominal pain and redness in the exposed area.
Pets that ingest alkalis may exhibit symptoms like severe caustic or corrosive injury (depending on how concentrated the alkali is) and mild tissue irritation.
Treatment for alkali ingestion includes fluid therapy, decontamination (flushing of the exposed area), symptomatic supportive care and anti-ulcer medication. Severe poisoning can cause severe tissue injury or perforation/rupture of the intestine. Immediate medical attention is required.