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<< Toxic Alcohol Ingestion: Prompt Recognition and Management in the Emergency Department (Critical Care Topic and Pharmacology CME)

Introduction

The term toxic alcohol refers to a group of hydrocarbons that contain a hydroxyl group (-OH group) and are not intended for ingestion. This group includes ethylene glycol, methanol, propylene glycol, and isopropanol.Diethylene glycol belongs to a class of glycol ethers that contain hydroxyl groups. It is also discussed here, as it may present in a clinically similar fashion to the toxic alcohols.2

Ethylene glycol is used primarily as an engine coolant, antifreeze, or brake fluid, and it may be unintentionally consumed by children or animals because of its sweet taste.1,3 Methanol, most commonly in the form of windshield-washer fluid, has been implicated in several poisoning epidemics resulting from tainted beverages.1,4-7 Outbreaks have been reported in undeveloped countries as a result of the adulteration of ethanol with methanol. 

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