coughing after cleaning with bleach

Coughing after Cleaning with Bleach: Causes & Solutions

When you check your household cleaning products’ labels, you might be surprised to know how many of these products contain bleach.

Bleach is a hazardous chemical in most cleaning compounds, including stain removers, toilet cleaners, and tile residue removers. Most of us use these cleaning products without realizing the dangers that bleach poses.

One of the significant and common harmful effects of using bleach is irritation and coughing, which may have adverse respiratory health effects. Even if you don’t notice it immediately, several years of using bleach cleaning products may cause permanent damage to your lungs.

This post takes an exclusive look at the likely causes of coughing after cleaning with bleach and ways to solve the problem.

coughing after cleaning with bleach

Causes of Coughing After Cleaning With Bleach

The combination of bleach with acid, ammonia and other chemical reagents used in cleaning compounds produces chlorine gas, a green-yellow gas with an irritating odor. Chlorine gas is heavier than air hence tends to accumulate in the low-lying areas, making it easy for you to inhale. Inhaling this gas irritates your respiratory system, resulting in coughing, shortness of breath, and damage in both the lower and upper respiratory tracts.

The effects of inhaling chlorine start immediately within seconds or minutes of exposure. The severity of the health symptoms depends on the amount of chlorine released from bleach, duration of exposure, and route.

When you inhale chlorine gas produced from the reaction of bleach and other cleaning reagents, the gas comes into contact with moist tissues such as the throat and lungs. It reacts with the water contained in the tissues producing hypochlorous, hydrochloric acid, and free oxygen radicals. These acids cause damage and toxic effects, including mucosal membrane irritation, edema of the upper airway and lung parenchyma, and induction of cough, wheezing, and dyspnea.

The acids formed can also react with the conjunctival mucous membrane causing corneal abrasions and burns and the respiratory system. Generally, coughing after using bleach results from chlorine gas production that reacts with the moist respiratory tissues producing an acid that irritates.

Coughing after Using Bleach: What’s the Solution?

Home Care

Bleach and chlorine poisoning is a medical emergency. However, if you inhale chlorine, the first step of managing the condition is getting out of the contaminated bleach environment. You should seek fresh air immediately by going to the highest possible group since chlorine is heavier than air.

For blurred vision and burning eyes, you should rinse your eyes with clean water immediately. If the fumes have contaminated your clothing or skin, you should remove the clothes and wash the entire body with water and soap.

Medical Follow-Up Care

However, the best solution to the effects of bleach mostly requires supportive medical treatment. It is hence essential to see the doctor if you have been exposed to bleach. People with chlorine poisoning are treated in the emergency department.

Currently, there is no chlorine antidote with the treatment focusing on removing the chlorine from the body as quickly as possible via activated charcoal or medication. Go to the nearest medical center where the clinician will immediately assess your breathing, airway, circulation, and provide humidified oxygen as necessary.

For severe exposure, the physician may need endotracheal intubation. This involves placing a breathing tube into your airway for mechanical ventilation if you have difficulty in breathing. They may also use innovative techniques such as endoscopy, bronchoscopy, chest X-ray, and electrocardiogram to check your throat and see if you have severe burns in your lungs and airways.

They might also need to insert a nasogastric tube to empty the contaminated contents in your stomach.  Beta-agonists such as albuterol are used to treat bronchospasm.  If the irritation continues, physicians can consider evaluating for corneal abrasion.

Bleach and chlorine poisoning can have severe effects on your body. Physicians and other health professionals, including nurses, physician assistants, and EMS workers play an important role in treating the condition and educating you on preventing future incidents due to bleach exposure.

The recovery outlook will depend on the amount of chlorine inhaled and how quickly you obtain medical treatment. You have a higher chance of complete recovery if you receive medical help immediately.


Using bleach for cleaning exposes your pets, children, and other household members to health risks. Before you use them in your home, ensure you understand the danger of bleach-based products.

Luckily, some alternatives can clean your home as effectively without using the hazard. To reduce your exposure to bleach fumes, you can consider using safer cleaning products and ensuring the air is well ventilated while you clean.

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