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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    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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    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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    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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    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 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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    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 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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    You may have to manage the effects of paint thinner poisoning for up to several weeks, depending on the severity of the damage. With certain types of hydrocarbon exposure, lung damage may not occur and no treatment is needed. If problems with the lungs and airway do occur, they may resolve within a few days or up to six or seven weeks later. During this period, the victim may require oxygen therapy or specific treatments aimed at improving the respiratory system.

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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.

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    If you suspect that a child or anyone else has consumed or inhaled a hydrocarbon, call 1-800-222-1222 right away, even if the person does not have symptoms. This number will connect you to the nearest poison center at any time, day or night. A specially trained person there will ask questions and explain what you should do. If the container of the suspected substance is labeled, have it nearby because the information will help the expert determine what to do, including whether to administer first aid.