The sudden onset of asthmalike symptoms and persistence of airway reactivity following an acute exposure to an irritant gas or vapor has been termed reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS). A mixture of sodium hypochlorite (bleach, 40%) and hydrochloric acid (18%) is commonly used as a household cleaning solution in our region. From this mixture, chlorine gas is produced, which can cause airway damage and ensuing RADS. Here we describe findings of patients with RADS due to this cleaning mixture, and determine factors associated with a favorable outcome. Data were collected retrospectively on 55 symptomatic patients presenting to our emergency department after inhalation exposure to a mixture of bleach and hydrochloric acid. Symptoms, past medical and smoking history, details of the exposure, initial peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) and oxygenation, and acute reversibility of airways obstruction were documented. All patients met previously defined criteria for the diagnosis of RADS, but did not undergo methacholine challenge testing and bronchoalveolar lavage or histopathologic study. Fifty patients were followed over the course of 3 mo. The majority of exposures (64%) occurred in the bathroom or kitchen. Only 21 of 55 (38%) patients showed an improvement in PEFR of 15% or greater following two beta(2)-agonist inhalation treatments. In follow-up, 48 patients (87%) improved clinically and functionally (FEV(1)). Seven patients (13%) deteriorated, with ARDS developing in two, one of whom died from respiratory failure. Advanced age, initial low PEFR, exposure in a small enclosed area, use immediately after mixing, and prolonged short- and long-term exposures were associated with a poorer prognosis. This descriptive study is the largest case series in the literature of RADS developing after exposure to a bleach-hydrochloric acid mixture. The optimum acute treatment and long-term outcomes for patients with RADS due to this combination still need to be determined.