Lighter fluid poisoning

Definition

Lighter fluid is a flammable liquid found in cigarette lighters and other types of lighters. Lighter fluid poisoning occurs when someone swallows this substance.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

The harmful substances in lighter fluids are called hydrocarbons. They include:

Where Found

Various lighter fluids contain these substances.

Symptoms

Below are symptoms of lighter fluid poisoning in different parts of the body.

EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT

KIDNEYS AND BLADDER

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

HEART AND BLOOD

LUNGS AND AIRWAYS

NERVOUS SYSTEM

SKIN

Home Care

Get medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.

If the lighter fluid is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the person swallowed the lighter fluid, give them water or milk right away, if a provider tells you to do so. DO NOT give anything to drink if the person has symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness.

If the person breathed in fumes of the lighter fluid, move them to fresh air right away.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) 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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.

Tests that may be done include:

Treatment may include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well someone does depends on how severe their poisoning is and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.

Damage can continue to occur for several weeks after swallowing lighter fluid.

References

Aronson JK. Organic solvents. In: Aronson JK, ed. Meyler's Side Effects of Drugs. 16th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2016:385-389.

Wang GS, Buchanan JA. Hydrocarbons. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 152.


Review Date: 10/16/2017
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com