What Happens To Your Body When You Drink Antifreeze

As NPR recounts, in 2007, the New England Journal of Medicine published a picture of an usual "blue glow" emanating from a kidney-shaped hospital basin. Much like an actual kidney, the basin contained pee. So unless the source of that fluorescent urine was a firefly with a UTI, something was extremely awry. The patient was a man in the throes of what looked like a drunken frenzy. He flailed erratically and had to be sedated. He took deep, rapid breaths, and his blood was exceedingly acidic.

What could have sickened this patient so badly and turned his pee into a makeshift night light? Ethylene glycol, better known as antifreeze. Also called coolant, per Napa, the fluid you feed to your car to prevent engine and radiator water from freezing or boiling over has a fluorescent dye that makes it easier to spot leaks. So when the emergency room patient took his own leak, the resulting glow made it easier to identify antifreeze as the culprit. Sadly, the man meant to poison himself. Thankfully, his hospital story had a happy ending. However, others have unknowingly swallowed antifreeze and suffered tragically. Just how dangerous is it to drink this stuff?

Antifreeze has been weaponized by cold-blooded killers

In 2012, Diane Staudte's family began dying mysteriously. As ABC details, first her husband unexpectedly passed away. Her son abruptly died several months later. Then one of Diane's two daughters began to experience a flu-like illness that led to kidney failure and brain damage and nearly killed her. With the help of her favorite child, Rachel, Diane had dosed the others' drinks with antifreeze. In a similarly chilling story, according to the BBC, in 2005, UK resident Kate Knight left her husband blind and brain-damaged by poisoning his food and wine with antifreeze.

Obviously, this stuff is lethally toxic. It impairs kidney, brain, nervous, and lung function, per Healthline. While adults sometimes do this for self-harm, pets and children may drink it accidentally. Phys.org points out that antifreeze tastes sweet. A child or pet that consumes it may not be inclined to spit it out, so it's imperative that it remains out of their reach.

If you suspect that you or someone else may be experiencing antifreeze poisoning, dial 911 or contact the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.