Paint Thinner Poisoning

Paint Thinner Poisoning

Paint Thinner Poisoning
Paint thinner poisoning occurs when a toxic substance, known as a hydrocarbon, is ingested by mouth or by breathing. Paint thinners, gasoline and cleaning sprays can contain these hydrocarbons. Symptoms include burning in the mouth, throat or stomach; vomiting; or diarrhea. A person with paint thinner poisoning may become short of breath, or even appear blue around the lips and extremities. Anyone suspected to have this poisoning should get emergency hospital care. Find out why children and adolescents are most commonly affected by this serious health condition -- plus ways to prevent and treat paint thinner poisoning -- with expert advice from Sharecare.

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    Home care for someone with paint thinner poisoning may involve helping with treatments for lung inflammation caused by hydrocarbon exposure. These treatments may include oxygen therapy and medications. If the victim is on oxygen therapy, you'll have to learn how to use the oxygen system to deliver the correct amount. Medications prescribed to reduce lung inflammation include corticosteroids, which act on the immune system and increase the chance of getting infections. If the victim has an infection, antibiotic therapy may be necessary.

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    The symptoms of paint thinner poisoning can vary according to the type of toxic hydrocarbon that enters the body. The amount and the route of entry also influence the type and severity of symptoms. Problems in the digestive tract may include a burning in the mouth, throat, or stomach; vomiting; or diarrhea. The victim may develop a persistent cough, become short of breath, or even appear blue around the lips and extremities. Someone who has absorbed a large amount of a certain type of hydrocarbon could be hard to arouse, lose consciousness, or have seizures.

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    Paint thinner poisoning can be very serious, depending on several factors. The severity varies according to the type of hydrocarbon that enters the body, the entry route, and the duration of exposure. For example, the refrigerant Freon is considered more toxic and more likely to cause harm in various body systems than gasoline. Inhaling a hydrocarbon is more dangerous than swallowing it because inhaling increases the risk of lung damage. Chronic exposure such as from habitual glue sniffing poses a greater risk of long-term serious health problems.

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    The airways and lungs are especially vulnerable to paint thinner poisoning. An inhaled hydrocarbon can be distributed in the lungs and cause inflammation to the lung tissue ranging from mild to very severe. Other problems that may develop if large amounts are absorbed include irregular heart rhythms, liver or kidney damage, and nervous system disorders. Long-term inhalation of hydrocarbons such as from habitual glue sniffing, may lead to anemia or leukemia.

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    Paint thinner poisoning can be prevented in several ways. One way is to use caution. Store solutions such as household cleaners, kerosene, and paint where children can't get to them. When using these products, make sure that ventilation is adequate so you don't inhale the fumes. If you get some on your skin, wipe it off and wash the area.

    The other way to prevent paint thinner poisoning is to talk with children and teenagers about the risks of drinking dangerous substances or inhaling toxic fumes. If your youngster acts irritable or shows other unusual physical or behavioral signs, investigate further to determine if they're sniffing glue or another toxic substance.

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    Several non-medication treatments may be used to manage respiratory problems in someone with paint thinner poisoning. They include oxygen therapy and certain types of inhalation therapy that maintain a constant level of pressure in the airway. For someone with severe lung damage, a breathing tube may be inserted.

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    The diagnosis of paint thinner poisoning is based on a history of exposure to a hydrocarbon, symptoms of lung problems, and certain abnormal test results. Even if the victim is too ill to speak, hydrocarbon exposure may be suspected if a chemical odor or paint residue is noted or a suspicious container is nearby. The victim may develop respiratory symptoms, and they may continue to worsen for days after exposure to the hydrocarbon. A chest x-ray performed hours after the exposure may show signs of lung damage. Oximetry, a noninvasive test to measure oxygenation in the blood, may also be used to assess for damage to the lungs.

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    Medications may be used cautiously to manage paint thinner poisoning or its complications. Although forcing someone who has swallowed a hydrocarbon to vomit usually isn't advised, emptying the stomach may be necessary to prevent absorption of a hydrocarbon that's likely to harm multiple organs. A medication that's used to trigger vomiting is called syrup of ipecac.

    An example of a complication of paint thinner poisoning that requires medication therapy is a development of seizures in a teenager who habitually sniffs glue. In this case, the teen may receive a muscle-relaxing drug to control the seizures.

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    Paint thinner poisoning occurs when a toxic substance known as a hydrocarbon is taken into the body by mouth or by breathing. Found in such everyday products as gasoline, paint thinner, and cleaning sprays, hydrocarbons inside the body can pose a risk of great harm. Someone with severe paint thinner poisoning needs emergency hospital care, but if the hydrocarbon is determined to be nontoxic, the victim may need simply to be watched closely at home. Children and adolescents are most commonly affected.

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    About half the cases of paint thinner poisoning involve young children, and certain factors may influence how children are affected. For example, while adults may cough or choke after swallowing a hydrocarbon-containing solution, children may turn blue or hold their breath. Children are also less likely to accurately report what happened and to describe their symptoms, so detecting paint thinner poisoning may be more of a challenge.