What to Do If You Accidentally Swallowed Mouthwash

Published on: December 11, 2023
A young woman rinsing her mouth with mouthwash

Accidentally swallowing mouthwash might sound alarming, but in most cases, it should not cause significant harm. However, it is crucial to take certain steps to ensure your safety and well-being. Here is a comprehensive guide on what to do if you have accidentally swallowed mouthwash.

What Happens if You Swallow Mouthwash?

The first step is to remain calm. While swallowing mouthwash is not ideal, most commercially available mouthwashes are formulated with ingredients that, in small amounts, should not cause severe harm. It is expected that some liquid may be accidentally swallowed from time to time.

Steps to Take After Swallowing Mouthwash

If you have swallowed a small amount, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water. Swish and spit several times to help remove any residual mouthwash. This can also help minimize any potential irritation to your mouth or throat.

After rinsing your mouth, drinking a glass of water can help dilute the mouthwash that was swallowed. This can also help reduce any potential irritation or discomfort in the throat or stomach.

While it might be a natural instinct to induce vomiting after swallowing a substance you believe is harmful, it is generally not recommended unless advised by a medical professional. Vomiting can potentially cause more harm by exposing your throat and mouth to the substance again.

Common Ingredients in Mouthwash and Their Effects

Different brands of mouthwash have different ingredients, which can impact the effects if you have accidentally swallowed mouthwash. Some of the common ingredients in mouthwash include:

  • Alcohol: Some mouthwashes contain high amounts of alcohol, which, if ingested in large quantities, can cause intoxication, nausea or vomiting.
  • Fluoride: Swallowing small amounts of fluoride-containing mouthwash might cause an upset stomach, but large amounts could potentially lead to fluoride toxicity, causing symptoms like stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and, in severe cases, seizures or cardiac issues.
  • Essential Oils: Mouthwashes often contain essential oils like eucalyptol or menthol. Ingesting these oils in small amounts might cause mild irritation but generally should not lead to severe issues

Different mouthwashes contain various ingredients, some of which may cause different reactions if ingested. Check the label for any warnings or specific instructions in case of accidental ingestion. This can determine what steps you should take if you have accidentally swallowed mouthwash.

Monitor Symptoms

Pay attention to any immediate symptoms you might experience after swallowing the mouthwash. These could include nausea, stomach ache or a burning sensation in the throat. While these symptoms might occur, they often subside on their own.

Even if symptoms seem mild initially, it is essential to monitor yourself for any changes in how you feel. If symptoms worsen or persist, seek medical attention immediately. You may be reacting to one of the ingredients and may need medical attention.

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How Much Mouthwash is Dangerous to Swallow?

Determining the exact amount of mouthwash that becomes dangerous to swallow depends on various factors, including the individual’s age, weight, health conditions and the specific ingredients in the mouthwash.

In general, swallowing a small amount of mouthwash accidentally, such as a sip or a mouthful, typically is not considered dangerous for adults and might cause temporary discomfort like nausea or a mild stomachache. However, larger quantities, especially in children, could potentially be dangerous.

Large amounts of mouthwash could lead to more severe symptoms, particularly if the mouthwash contains high concentrations of alcohol or fluoride. You may need to seek medical advice if a significant amount is swallowed or if there are concerns about potential adverse effects.

When to Contact Poison Control or Seek Medical Advice

If you swallowed a significant amount of mouthwash, you are experiencing severe symptoms, or you are unsure about the ingredients in the mouthwash, contact poison control or seek medical advice promptly. They can provide guidance based on the specific situation.

If you seek medical attention, be honest about the amount and type of mouthwash you swallowed. This information will help healthcare professionals assess the situation accurately and provide appropriate treatment if necessary.

Prevent Future Incidents

To prevent accidental ingestion in the future, take precautions when using mouthwash. Always read the instructions and use the recommended amount. Store it in a safe place, away from the reach of children or pets, who are much more susceptible to danger if they ingest even small amounts of mouthwash.

Additionally, consider using a measuring cup or dispenser to ensure you are using the correct dosage. This can ensure that even if you swallow some mouthwash, it is a small amount that most likely will not be harmful.
A man pouring mouthwash into a bottle cap
Remember, while accidental ingestion of mouthwash is concerning, it often does not result in severe consequences. Most people do not need to see a doctor and will quickly recover from any mild symptoms.

However, if you or someone else accidentally swallowed mouthwash and experiences severe symptoms or if there is uncertainty about the ingredients in the mouthwash, seeking medical advice or contacting poison control is recommended for proper guidance and assistance.

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