Coordinated Health


Cold wave lotion is a hair care product used to create permanent waves (“a perm”). Cold wave lotion poisoning occurs from swallowing, breathing in, or touching cold wave lotion.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Thioglycolate poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient


Where Found

  • Hair perm (permanent) kits
  • Various cold wave lotions

Note: This list may not include all products that contain cold wave lotion.


  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
    • Mouth irritation
    • Burning and redness of the eyes
    • Possibly serious damage to the cornea of the eyes
  • Heart and blood
    • Weakness due to low blood sugar
  • Lungs and airways
    • Shortness of breath
  • Nervous system
    • Drowsiness
    • Seizures (convulsions)
  • Skin
    • Bluish-colored lips and fingers
    • Rash (reddening or blistering of the skin)
  • Stomach and intestines
    • Cramping
    • Diarrhea
    • Stomach pain
    • Vomiting

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient’s age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center – emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Breathing support
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Tube down the throat and stomach to look for burns (endoscopy)
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) — perhaps every few hours for several days

Expectations (prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Skin problems will clear up when you stop using the product. If the lotion is swallowed, recovery normally occurs if you receive the right treatment in time.

Most home permanent kits (cold wave lotions) are watered down (diluted) to avoid poisoning. However, some hair salons may use concentrated forms that need to be diluted before use. Exposure to concentrated cold wave lotion will cause much more damage than over-the-counter lotion.