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Propane poisoning

Propane is a colorless and odorless flammable gas.

This article discusses the harmful effects from breathing in or swallowing propane. Breathing in or swallowing propane can be harmful. Propane takes the place of oxygen in the lungs. This makes breathing difficulty or impossible.

This article 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 1-800-222-1222 for a local poison control center.

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the type of contact but may include:

Touching propane results in frostbite -like symptoms.

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air. If the person does not improve rapidly after moving to fresh air, call your local emergency number (such as 911).

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.

DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by Poison Control or a health care professional.

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

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This 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. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The patient may receive oxygen. Blood tests may be done to determine the severity of the poisoning.

Expectations (prognosis)

How well a patient does depends on the type of contact with the poison, and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a patient gets medical help, the better.

Those with short exposures may have temporary headaches or other mild nervous system symptoms. Stroke, coma, or death may occur with long-term exposure.

Updated: 1/30/2013

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 A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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