Ethylene Glycol Toxicity Clinical Presentation

Updated: Nov 28, 2021
  • Author: Daniel C Keyes, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Sage W Wiener, MD  more...
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As with all poisonings, ascertain the nature of the oral ingestion by talking with the patient or parents. Points to cover include the following:

  • The timing of ingestion
  • The quantity ingested
  • The product involved; try to obtain the original container of the ingested substance to confirm its identity
  • Any co-ingestions
  • The motive of the ingestion if not accidental

It is often extremely valuable to obtain additional historical information from EMS personnel. It is also valuable to obtain the actual container or a digital photo of the ingested substance.  All of this historical data can be extremely helpful when discussing case with poison center. Initially, patients may be asymptomatic. With time they will develop altered mental status and tachypnea. If left untreated an ingestion as low as 1.4 ml/kg (1g/kg) has been reported to cause death.  Serious ingestions can occur with much less than this [1].


Physical Examination

After an adequate airway is ensured, monitor vital signs, including temperature. Deep and rapid breathing may be Kussmaul respirations, which are indicative of severe metabolic acidosis. Assess for altered mental status.