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 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.

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    Exposure to substances that contain hydrocarbons poses a risk of paint thinner poisoning. Inhalation is especially dangerous because hydrocarbons can cause considerable damage to the lungs or other major organs. Failure to store hydrocarbon-containing solutions such as paint thinner or kerosene out of reach could increase a child's risk of drinking and inhaling the solution. Recreational sniffing of such substances as glue or gasoline is a risky behavior associated with teenagers. In adults, siphoning gasoline poses a risk.

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    If the type of hydrocarbon is not likely to cause damage throughout the body, emptying the victim's stomach is avoided to prevent the risk of inhaling the hydrocarbon. A victim who does not develop symptoms within about 6 hours will probably be allowed to go home. A victim who does develop symptoms is typically admitted to the hospital for further testing and treatments are aimed at resolving the specific symptoms.

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    A person with paint thinner poisoning is generally examined in the emergency room, where the physicians determine whether hospital admission is necessary. Someone who swallowed a "nontoxic" hydrocarbon and doesn't develop symptoms will soon be allowed to go home with a caretaker. Someone who has symptoms, such as choking, will have a chest x-ray and remain in the emergency room for a while. If the x-ray does not show signs of lung inflammation, the victim can go home after about six hours. Hospital admission is necessary if signs of lung inflammation or complications of paint thinner poisoning are present.