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    Lighter fluid poisoning

    Lighter fluid is a flammable liquid found in cigarette lighters and other types of lighters. Lighter fluid poisoning occurs when someone swallows this substance.

    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.

    Poisonous Ingredient

    Hydrocarbons, including:

    • Benzene
    • Butane
    • Hexamine
    • Lacolene
    • Naptha
    • Propane

    Where Found

    • Various lighter fluids

    Symptoms

    • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
      • Loss of vision
      • Severe pain in the throat
      • Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
    • Kidneys and bladder
      • Decreased urine output
    • Stomach and intestines
      • Blood in the stool
      • Severe abdominal pain
      • Burns of the food pipe (esophagus)
      • Vomiting
      • Vomiting blood
    • Heart and blood
      • Collapse
      • Low blood pressure that develops rapidly
    • Lungs and airways
      • Breathing difficulty
      • Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)
    • Nervous system
      • Coma
      • Confusion
      • Dizziness
      • Easy excitability
      • Extreme sleepiness (possibly even coma)
      • Hallucinations
      • Headache
      • Inability to sleep
      • Irritability
      • Lack of desire to do anything
      • Tremor
      • Twitching
      • Uncoordinated movements
      • Staggering
    • Skin
      • Burns
      • Holes (necrosis) in the skin or tissues underneath
      • Irritation

    Home Care

    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 strength, if known)
    • Time it was swallowed
    • Amount swallowed

    Poison Control

    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 tube
    • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
    • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
    • Fluids by IV
    • Oxygen
    • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
    • 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

    Outlook (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.

    Damage can continue to occur for several weeks after the poison was swallowed.

    References

    Mirkin DB. Benzene and related aromatic hydrocarbons. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 94.

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          A Closer Look

            Talking to your MD

              Self Care

                Tests for Lighter fluid poisoning

                  Review Date: 2/28/2012

                  Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

                  The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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