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Isopropanol overdose

Isopropanol is a type of nondrinking alcohol. Isopropanol overdose occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally 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.

Alternative Names

Rubbing alcohol overdose; Isopropyl alcohol overdose

Poisonous Ingredient

Isopropyl alcohol

Where Found

  • Alcohol swabs
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Paint thinners
  • Perfumes
  • Rubbing alcohol

Note: This list may not include all sources of isopropanol.

Symptoms

Home Treatment

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 strengths if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

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 support, possibly artificial respiration
  • Dialysis (in very rare cases)
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Tube through the nose and  into the stomach to remove the alcohol (gastric lavage )

Expectations (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.

Drinking isopropanol will most likely make you very drunk. In this case, recovery is very likely. However, drinking large amounts can lead to:

  • Coma
  • Bleeding
  • Breathing difficulty

It is dangerous to give a child a sponge bath with isopropanol to reduce a fever. Because isopropanol is absorbed through the skin, it can make children very sick.

References

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: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 32.

Updated: 2/6/2012

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.


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