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Potentially life-threatening emergency
Hydrogen fluoride poisoning
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed
Potentially life-threatening emergency

Hydrogen fluoride poisoning

Contributors: Scott Echternacht MD, Bertram W. Berney MD, Michael W. Winter MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Hydrogen fluoride (HF) is an extremely toxic substance commonly used in many industries such as textiles, pesticides, and semiconductors. When combined with water, it is known as hydrofluoric acid. Human exposure to HF can result in severe cutaneous manifestations as well as devastating systemic effects. Systemic toxicity can occur by inhalation of gas, fumes, or aerosol, or by absorption through eyes, mucous membranes, and skin.

Those at high risk for systemic effects include those with burns over 1% of their body surface with a HF solution greater than 50% concentration or those with burns to 5% of body surface at any concentration. Deaths have been reported with 2.5% of body surface exposure.

Treatment involves irrigation, decontamination, oxygen therapy, topical calcium gluconate, and/or intravenous (IV) calcium gluconate.

Related topic: Hydrogen fluoride burns


T59.5X4A – Toxic effect of fluorine gas and hydrogen fluoride, undetermined, initial encounter

212857005 – Toxic effect of fluorine gas and hydrogen fluoride

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Dermal Thermal or electrical burn from any other etiology (eg, flame)
  • Reactive airway disease
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Interstitial lung disease / Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pneumoconiosis (eg, Silicosis, Asbestosis)
  • Bronchitis (Acute bronchitis or Chronic bronchitis)
  • Pneumonia (eg, Viral pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumoniae pneumonia, fungal)
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Tuberculosis
  • Other inhalational poisoning (Carbon monoxide poisoning, chlorine, Hydrogen sulfide poisoning)
  • Other ingestion poisoning
  • Extrinsic allergic alveolitis
  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Smoke inhalation injury
  • Trauma

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Last Reviewed:04/22/2019
Last Updated:05/16/2019
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.
Potentially life-threatening emergency
Hydrogen fluoride poisoning
A medical illustration showing key findings of Hydrogen fluoride poisoning (Inhalation) : Chest pain, Cough, Headache, Nasal irritation, Dyspnea, Sore throat, Wheezing
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.