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Wood stains


Wood stains are products used for wood finishing. Wood stain poisoning occurs when someone swallows these substances.

This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

The harmful substances in wood stains are hydrocarbons, or substances that contain only carbon and hydrogen. Other harmful ingredients may include:

  • Alcohol
  • Alkanes
  • Cyclo alkanes
  • Glycol ether
  • Corrosives, such as sodium hydroxide (lye)

Where Found


Various wood stains contain these substances. Other wood stains may contain other substances.




Below are symptoms of wood stain poisoning in different parts of the body.


  • Loss of vision
  • Severe pain in the throat
  • Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue


  • Blood in the stool
  • Burns of the food pipe (esophagus)
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Vomiting blood


  • Collapse
  • Low blood pressure that develops rapidly


  • Breathing difficulty (from breathing in fumes)
  • Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)


  • Brain damage
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness


  • Burn
  • Holes in the skin or tissues under the skin
  • Irritation


Home Care


Get medical help right away. Do NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.

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

If the person swallowed the wood stain, give them water or milk right away, if a provider tells you to do so. Do NOT give anything to drink if the person has symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness.

If the person breathed in the poison, move them to fresh air right away.


Before Calling Emergency


Have this information ready:

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


Poison Control


Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) 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.


What to Expect at the Emergency Room


Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.

The person may receive:

  • Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Bronchoscopy: camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
  • Endoscopy: camera down the throat to look for burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Hemodialysis (kidney machine)
  • Surgery to remove burned skin
  • 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 someone does depends on how much wood stain they swallowed and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.

Damage can continue to occur for several weeks after swallowing wood stain.




Jacobsen D, Hovda KE. Methanol, ethylene glycol, and other toxic alcohols. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose . 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 32.

White SR. Toxic alcohols. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice . 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 155.

Zosel AE. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine . 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 143.


        Talking to your MD


          Self Care


            Tests for Wood stains



              Review Date: 11/4/2015

              Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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