What Are the Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning?

Christina Edwards

Ethylene glycol poisoning, or antifreeze poisoning, occurs when a person or animal ingests antifreeze, a substance used in vehicle engines. During the first few hours after ingesting this substance, a person may have gastrointestinal problems and act intoxicated. As the body breaks the substance down further, high blood pressure and muscle spasms may also occur. Kidney and urination problems are also common symptoms of antifreeze poisoning.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning may include kidney problems.
Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning may include kidney problems.

Antifreeze is a substance used in vehicle radiators to lower the temperature of the engine. Ethylene glycol is used in most antifreeze on the market today. If ingested by a human, either accidentally or intentionally, this compound can cause a variety of side effects. It can be fatal in many cases.

High blood pressure may be a side effect of ingesting antifreeze.
High blood pressure may be a side effect of ingesting antifreeze.

Within the first few hours to a day after ingesting the substance, antifreeze can cause various gastrointestinal problems. Nausea and abdominal pain are common symptoms of poisoning, for instance. Some people may vomit as well.

Antifreeze poisoning occurs when an individual ingests antifreeze.
Antifreeze poisoning occurs when an individual ingests antifreeze.

People suffering from this kind of poisoning may also act as though they are intoxicated. They may be uncoordinated or confused. Slurred speech and dizziness are also common symptoms of ethylene glycol intoxication.

Antifreeze poisoning is a threat to dogs and cats, who seem to enjoy its sweet taste.
Antifreeze poisoning is a threat to dogs and cats, who seem to enjoy its sweet taste.

As time passes, the body begins to break down the ethylene glycol even further, and different symptoms of the poison will become apparent. High blood pressure and muscle spasms may occur, along with breathing problems and irregular heartbeats. Some people will die at this point, if the poisoning is not treated, and organs may begin to shut down in others.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning may include abdominal pain.
Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning may include abdominal pain.

The kidneys are the organs most affected by this type of poisoning. Kidney problems will usually begin a few days after the antifreeze has been ingested. Pain may be felt in the sides of the lower back, where the kidneys are located. Some people experiencing poisoning from antifreeze may also have very little urine, or blood may be present in their urine.

Antifreeze can be ingested either accidentally or intentionally. Since most antifreeze has a bright color and a sweet taste, children are especially attracted to it. Most parents are cautioned to keep antifreeze out of reach of children to avoid poisoning. In a few instances, some people have even attempted to commit suicide by ingesting antifreeze.

Cats and dogs are also very susceptible to antifreeze poisoning. Like children, they seem to be attracted to the sweet taste of the substance. Antifreeze poisoning in pets will often lead to seizures, convulsions, and death.

Breathing problems and irregular heartbeat are symptoms of antifreeze poisoning.
Breathing problems and irregular heartbeat are symptoms of antifreeze poisoning.

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Discussion Comments


@991321 Get thee to a doctor! The poisoning from metabolites is delayed. I wonder if a herbalist would be able to help clean your blood, but go to a hospital or see your regular doctor if you will. A blood flush, dialysis might be in order.

Polyethylene glycol is the safe alternative to ethylene glycol. It is antifreeze and also the primary ingredient in simple green and some eyedrops. Once I drank what I thought was ginger ale since that's what the label said, but it was really Simple Green, or polyethylene glycol. I called Simple Green and they said I needn't worry but I might get the runs. So look for it at your auto parts store. Polyethylene glycol works and won't kill you.


Two years ago I divorced my husband after a 20 year abusive marriage. About a month ago I accepted and ate a plate of food that he brought to my house not paying enough attention to the lime green colored juice in the salsa. A few hours later and well into the next day I suffered from extreme vomiting and diarrhea. Two days later my left kidney (I had surgery on it 15 years ago) began to hurt really bad. Since then I have changed to a healthier diet and started working out.

What is confusing to me is that it's been three weeks and I can still taste and smell small traces of the poison. This morning, I vomited five times most of it was thick and yellow. Is it possible for some of the symptoms to return three weeks later?


My husband gave me antifreeze. He did it for years in small amounts and it caused heart disease as well as kidney problems. I was sick a lot. He put me in the hospital twice. The last time, in August, 2012 when I almost died, I finally left him. He has himself locked away in a Veteran's home faking mental illness. Nothing will happen to him. If I did report him, I would seem like the crazy one.

He had planned my "suicide' down to a science, but I lived. If the doctors do not check for metabolites, they will never find the antifreeze. I found lots of evidence of his bad acts after he moved out. I found needles containing antifreeze, notes, life insurance policies and a book he downloaded onto my kindle. The book was about committing suicide. I had a miserable life with him, but he always seemed so nice so I stayed. I just want to kill him.


Most people know they should be careful not to spill antifreeze when they are filling their cars with the coolant, and they know to clean up any spills when they happen. They also know about storing the unused antifreeze so that kids and animals will not get to it.

What many people don't know is that antifreeze that has run through your car is just as deadly and just as much of a danger as fresh antifreeze. You would think that old dirty antifreeze would not be something that kids or animals would think of putting in their mouths, but they do.

Antifreeze leaks are more likely to cause poisoning than spills because we are more likely to immediately clean up the spills.


Because of all the cases of accidental antifreeze poisoning in dogs and cats, companies that make antifreeze have begun adding something new to the products. I can't remember whether they are adding something to change the taste or the smell or both, but I did read that they are trying to make antifreeze less attractive for animals to drink.

I think this additive also makes antifreeze easier to detect in humans.


I saw a TV show about a real life wife who used antifreeze poisoning to kill her husband. According to the show, antifreeze is difficult to detect when doctors do tests and most people who die from this type of poisoning never know what happened to cause the sickness.

This is also supposed to be one of the most painful ways to die. The article mentions that some people have used antifreeze to commit suicide. I definitely don't understand why you would want to drink something that is going to affect your body the way antifreeze does and cause so much pain. There are easier and quicker ways to die if that's what you have your mind set on.

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