Ammonia toxicity


  • Liquid form common in cleaning products
  • Ammonia gas used as chemical weapon
  • Injury due to inhalation, skin/eye contact, and/or ingestion
  • Extent of injury contingent upon concentration and duration of exposure
    • Even fairly low airborne concentrations (50 ppm) of ammonia produce rapid onset of eye, nose, and throat irritation; coughing; and narrowing of the bronchi.

Clinical Features

Routes of Exposure

  • Inhalation
  • Skin contact
    • Dilute (e.g. household cleaners) rarely burn but may be irritating
    • Corrosive injury if contact with concentrated (e.g. industrial cleaners >25%)
      • Skin chemical burns, blistering, pain, necrosis, particularly on moist skin areas
      • Contact with compressed liquid ammonia (stored at -28 °F) can cause frostbite injury and deep ulcerating burns
  • Eye contact
    • Greater tendency to penetrate/damage eye than other alkali
    • Temporary or permanent vision loss if contact with high concentrations of the gas or with concentrated ammonium hydroxide, due to swelling/sloughing of eye surface cells
      • Extent of damage may not be apparent for up to a week
  • Ingestion

Differential Diagnosis

Caustic Burns

Chemical weapons


  • Decontaminate
  • Evaluate for extent of injury, co-intoxicants



  • Dependant on clinical severity

See Also

External Links