AMMONIA EXPOSURE

Ammonia exposure can be harmful to human health, and in extreme cases, it can be lethal. Ammonia is a colorless gas with a pungent odor, widely used in the production of fertilizers, chemicals, and cleaning products.

Exposure to ammonia can happen through ingesting, skin contact, or inhalation. As ammonia is a gas at room temperature and quickly enters the respiratory system, inhalation is the most frequent method of exposure.

TYPES

There are three types of ammonia, namely:

  • Acute exposure. This type of exposure occurs when an individual is exposed to a high concentration of ammonia over a short period, typically within minutes or hours. 
  • Chronic exposure. This type of exposure occurs when an individual is exposed to low levels of ammonia over an extended period, typically weeks, months, or years.
  • Contact exposure. This type of exposure occurs when ammonia comes into direct contact with the skin or eyes. 

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms for ammonia vary, depending on the type of exposure that the patient has. These include:

  • Acute exposure. Irritation in the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. 
  • Chronic exposure. Irritation in the eyes and skin as well as leads to respiratory issues, including bronchitis and asthma.

Contact exposure. Serious eye damage, chemical burns, and sores on the skin.

DIAGNOSIS

The following are a few of the procedures for determining ammonia:

  • Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Laboratory tests
  • Imaging tests

TREATMENT

The intensity and kind of ammonia determine the course of treatment:

  • Exposure by inhalation. If the exposure was by inhalation, the affected person might need to be transferred right away to a place with fresh air. If the patient is experiencing trouble breathing, oxygen therapy may be given. 
  • Exposure through contact. If ammonia has touched the skin, it should be cleaned with water for at least 15 minutes. Remove any contaminated garments immediately. 
  • Exposure to the eyes. For at least 15 minutes after contact with ammonia, the eyes should be rinsed with water. The injured person has to get medical help very far away since ammonia to the eyes can be quite harmful.

Medication. Bronchodilators or corticosteroids may occasionally be recommended to help treat respiratory symptoms, including coughing and wheezing.

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