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Susan Ivy
Susan Ivy, Nurse (RN)
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My cousin's son 22 years of age drank antifreeze. He said it

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My cousin's son 22 years of age drank antifreeze. He said it was in a jar in his father's barn/man cave. He is in the hospital with kidney failure and they are performing dialysis on him. I believe he drank it on Saturday and went to the hospital on Sunday. What are his chances of recovering from this?
Thank you,
Gina Rivero
Hello and thank you for using JustAnswer Health for your question.

I am very sorry to hear about your cousin, and that he drank anti freeze (ethylene glycol).

Much about his prognosis depends on the amount he drank, and when treatment was initiated.

That he is young is of course to his benefit, as he will recover more easily than an if an older person was exposed to this same poison.

If he waited a few days to seek help, rather than getting treatment immediately after ingesting then there may be permanent damage to his kidneys

If this was a suicide attempt, then the underlying depression will need treatment, and dealing with the results of the poisoning itself can sometimes result in depression. (It sounds like he may not have realized what he was drinking?) - If so that at least will help him from having to deal with as severe as a depression or a mood disorder which is likely if this were a suicide attempt.

There are considered to be 3 stages of poisoning from Ethylene glycol:

1: Neurological (30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion) - inebriation and euphoria (similar to alcohol ingestion); then nausea & vomiting, metabolic acidosis and central nervous system depression. In severe cases coma & seizures can occur

2: Cardiopulmonary (12-24 hours after ingestion)
In the second stage of ethylene glycol poisoning, tachycardia and mild hypertension frequently occur (fast heart beat and high blood pressure) In serious cases, severe metabolic acidosis with compensatory hyperventilation can develop accompanied by multiple organ failure. Most deaths occur in this stage

Stage 3: Renal (24-72 hours after ingestion)
The symptoms of the third stage can include oliguria (lack of urine production by the kidneys) flank pain, renal failure and, in rare instances, bone marrow suppression. Recovery of renal function is often complete but may require several months of hemodialysis. Even when renal damage is severe, chronic hemodialysis or renal transplantation are rarely required. Serious damage to the liver is rare. (Reference:

There are statistics about survival/effects are available:

Ethylene glycol is a relatively common cause of overdose in American emergency departments. In 2007, 4966 single exposure cases were reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers;1 the 2008 incidence data remains much the same, with 4921 single exposures to ethylene glycol reported.2 Rapid intervention often makes an important difference in the outcome of ethylene glycol toxicity.

According to the annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System in 2007, 878 had minor outcomes, 365 had moderate outcomes, 135 had severe outcomes, and 16 deaths were documented.1 Similar data were reported in the 2008 American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System annual report: 780 minor outcomes, 358 moderate outcomes, 140 major outcomes, and 7 deaths.2


Please reply to this post if you have further questions so that I may address them or clarify my answer if needed.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
If he has been on dialysis since Sunday, how long will this go on before they know if his kidneys are irreperable and if other organs have been damaged. I read also that blindness, deafness, brain damage and a life of dialysis and pain is in the future for survivors. Is this true and when is this determined. When if he lives can we determine he is "out of the woods". Thank you very much. Gina
Note the statistics above: in one year where 4966 individuals ingested this substance, 878 has minor outcomes (little permanent damage), 365 had moderate damage (more severe permanent damage), 135 had severe damage (such as kidney destruction requiring dialysis for life or kidney transplantation) and 16 died.

To me theses statistics indicate that there is much hope, as a large percent of victims have only minor to moderate damage.

To know more specifically about your cousin's case, would require me to be there on staff of the unit where he is or to have a lot more details. But the earlier he received treatment, then the less permanent damage he will have. If it was after 24 hour or more later, then this is better than if he had only sought treatment in 48 hours, but still is not as good as if he would have sought immediate help.

How is he doing now? Is he on a ventilator (respirator breathing for him?). If so, he has likely been sedated and it will be difficult to judge his neurological status right now. If he is not on a ventilator, is he able to speak to you coherently?

As noted in the initial post, rarely do individuals require permanent dialysis. But to predict in his case in particular the future out come we would at least need to know if he is currently responding to treatment, or if his kidneys are continuing to deteriorate.

It is likely simply too early to know for sure what his final outcome will be. Again we have the statistics, but much depends on how quickly he sought treatment and how he is currently responding to treatment. Also, some people just do better than others - and there is no sure way to predict whether he is in one group or another - but if he has been very healthy, has a positive attitude and is a 'fighter' he will probably do better than someone that suffered from depression and little hope or determination.

If you have any of the above information that I mentioned, this might give a better indication of the possible outcome. Feel free to let me know if you do.
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