Man’s throat started to ROT after he swallowed bleach

Man’s throat started to ROT after he accidentally swallowed a bleach tablet instead of painkillers: 65-year-old spent 2 weeks in intensive care breathing and eating through tubes

  • A 65-year-old man went to hospital in Geneva complaining of throat pain 
  • He had swallowed a tablet of bleach at home, thinking it was paracetamol
  • The harsh chemicals began to kill the flesh in his throat within hours   
  • He spent two weeks in intensive care but managed to make a recovery 

A man spent two weeks in intensive care and had to be fed through a tube after he swallowed a bleach tablet by accident.

The 65-year-old from Switzerland lost his voice and the flesh in his throat began to rot when he took the tablet after mistaking it for paracetamol. 

Medics did not know how best to treat the man’s condition and originally gave him painkillers and observed him for six hours, hoping to sending him home.

But then his condition took a turn for the worse and he lost his voice, had severe throat pain and could not breathe on his own.

He had to have a tube inserted into his neck to breathe through, and was put in intensive care, where he was fed through a tube. 

The unnamed man, who also needed antibiotics for a lung infection he developed while in hospital, has recovered but says he does not remember his time in hospital.  

The bleach caused the inside of the man’s throat to rot – the asterisks show white flesh on his vocal cords which has started to die (black star indicates right side, white left side)

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The unfortunate man had been suffering from a headache when he went to the kitchen to take a painkiller, but he mistakenly picked up a tablet of sodium hydroxide – the chemical used to make bleach – from the kitchen counter.

He says he felt a burning sensation in his throat straight away, but he managed to cough up some of the tablet.

He then went straight to hospital and was seen in A&E at Geneva University Hospital about an hour later. 

Medical examinations did not throw up any warning signs, apart from some redness in his throat, and the man was not complaining of abdominal pain, so doctors gave him painkillers and left him to be observed.

The condition caused a build-up of fluid in the man’s throat (shown by arrows). The asterisk shows normal looking tissue


Recent horror stories have revealed the life-threatening risks small round batteries pose to small children who swallow them. 

In May, the parents of a 15-month-old boy in the US told the story of how their son was intubated for months after he swallowed a button battery that burned a hole in his esophagus.

Cameron Soto was playing with his toys in December 2017 when he ingested a three-volt, 20-millimeter lithium-ion battery, also known as a button battery.

The youngster’s mother, Marisa Soto, said her son then started refusing food, prompting her to believe that he had a sore throat.

For two to four hours the battery burned Cameron from the inside, causing him to foam at the mouth and vomit.

When a button battery gets stuck in a child’s throat, the saliva triggers an electrical current that causes a chemical reaction that can burn the esophagus. 

Doctors said the burn led to swelling from the bottom of Cameron’s brain to the top of his heart.

Cameron was then intubated for two and a half months and during that time, he lost the ability to eat, talk and walk.

He now has a tube in his throat to help him breathe but is making a recovery.  

But his condition became life-threatening within hours. 

The chemical soon began to rot the flesh in his throat and caused a build-up of fluid near his voicebox, which prevented him from breathing or swallowing on his own. 

‘I have fought a survival battle’ 

According to BMJ Case Reports, he said: ‘I was drowsy, my throat was painful and I could not really talk any more. 

‘Much later, an ENT [ear, nose and throat specialist] finally came to examine me again: he left quickly and returned with four or five doctors in green clothes. 

‘I remember that I needed to urinate but it was denied to me because “there was no time”. 

‘I don’t have any more memories from this moment and until I got out of coma weeks later. (…) Everyone told me: I came back from a long way. 

‘I know I have fought a survival battle, so I wanted to live.’ 

The man spent two weeks in intensive care, and had to breathe through a tracheotomy – a hole cut in the windpipe. He was fed through a tube in his nose.  

His breathing tube stayed in for 17 days, until he was able to breathe independently again.

People must keep cleaning products and medicines separate 

Swallowing bleach or similar chemicals is a common occurrence, according to the journal, with around 5,000 people doing it each year in the United States.

However, the experts acknowledged it is uncommon for people to swallow it in tablet form, so it is not as clear what the medical treatment should be.

The report’s author, Dr Caroline Boonekamp said it is important that people store medicines and cleaning products in appropriate places.

The Swiss man was followed up by doctors two weeks and then a month after his ordeal, and did not need any more medical attention.

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