What Happens if You Eat Soap? Know the Risks and Deal

By Marsha Harrison

Fact-checked by Kia Lowe

what happens if you eat soap

Nowadays, soap bars look delicious, so it is not surprising if you or your child mistake them for food. The question is, what happens if you eat soap?

To put it briefly, experts warn that ingesting soap products can lead to poisoning due to their chemical content.

If you see someone you know showing signs of soap poisoning, seek medical help immediately. However, if you are here to just learn, go ahead and read the rest of the article.

Can You Eat Soap?

Even though Illinois Poison Center’s finding rates average household liquid and bar soaps as “Minimally Toxic,” it is not a good idea to eat soap.

The side effects will be different depending on various factors. Let me break them down for those who are asking, “Is soap poisonous if eaten?”

Soap Poisoning: Signs and Symptoms

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Signs and symptoms of soap poisoning vary depending on the following:

  • The type of product
  • How the product was ingested
  • The quantity and frequency

1. Type of product

If you swallow soap, you may experience pain or swelling around your throat, lips, or tongue. Other symptoms include constant vomiting, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal distress, or stool in your blood.

With household soap, someone can rarely die from eating soap, especially when only a tiny bit is swallowed.

As for commercial or industrial-grade cleaning products, you may have your heart rate drop quickly or suffer from low blood pressure. In extreme cases, your heart may collapse as it comes into contact with the chemicals, which is, of course, life-threatening.

Moreover, the pH level of your blood would change, harming your vital organs.

I hope this clears up everything for those who are asking, “Is eating soap bad for you?”

2. How the product was ingested

There are other ways you can get poisoned by soap besides eating. You can also get sick by coming into contact with soap through the eyes and skin or inhaling its fumes.

But for this article, we will focus on providing science-based explanations to answer your question, “Is soap toxic to eat?”

3. Frequency and quantity

If you eat soap everyday, you put yourself at greater risk of getting cancer.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “How can eating soap cause cancer?”

Well, some soap ingredients are meant for topical use but they can behave as carcinogens when you gobble them daily.

Apart from cancer, soap can inflame your body parts temporarily and can cause difficulty in breathing.

Another consequence is that the soap can damage your liver, which is responsible for filtering out toxins to protect other organs. When you consume large quantities of cleaning products, it will likely cause your liver to overwork.

Why Do Kids Eat Soap?

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Kids tend to put things into their mouths as they explore the world around them. Eventually, they will outgrow this phase. Still, eating non-food items like soap can make them sick.

A 2014 report from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) revealed that children under the age of 5 make up 47 percent of the total exposures to poison. For the same age group, exposure to household cleaning products accounts for 11% of poisonings.

To be fair, most of these exposures are classified as “non-poisonous” or “minimally poisonous,” causing minor health issues. The likelihood that a child dies from soap in mouth is pretty low. However, your child may suffer from nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Whatever the case may be, it is best to take precautions and educate your children about the risks they face when they eat or drink soap.

Eating Disorders

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Aside from accidents, be aware that some people have a condition called pica. This disorder is characterized by eating non-food items, affecting about 10% to 30% of 1 to 6-year-old children.

It is also found that those with intellectual disabilities may suffer from it. In rare cases, some pregnant women will have this disorder albeit temporary.

Moreover, eating nonfood items is not categorized as a “disorder” if the child is around 2 years old or younger. As mentioned earlier, this behavior is often outgrown.

Soap as one of the most common items that people with pica would eat along with ice, paint, hair, dirt, and feces. Because eating soap disorder is not uncommon, it was given a name on its own: Sapophagia.

When Should I Contact a Doctor?

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The Illinois Poison Center advises providing the individual who consumed soap with a few sips of water and watching out for other symptoms.

If the symptoms persist or worsen, call the doctor or your local Poison Center. Be sure to provide the specialist with information regarding the product and how much was consumed so they can treat the patient accordingly.

However, if you or your child eats soap habitually, consult a healthcare professional to get treatment. Your doctor may provide some prevention methods, cognitive behavioral therapy, or supplements to aid you in your nutritional deficiencies.

Conclusion

Though experts say that soap is “minimally toxic,” consuming it can lead to a wide range of health risks. The severity of the poisoning depends on the type of soap or how much was ingested. Hence, there is no one specific answer to the question, “What happens if you eat soap?”

You will need to observe how you or your child reacts to the product and find out how much was consumed so you can take appropriate action. Moreover, if you notice that you or your child is craving a chunk of soap, don’t hesitate to get help.

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