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First Aid for Fuel Oil Poisoning

Last updated Feb. 27, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Fuel Oil Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound. The intake may be through swallowing or inhaling fuel oil vapors.


What is Fuel Oil Poisoning?

  • Fuel oil is a byproduct of petroleum distillation. It is generally used as a fuel in industrial boilers and furnaces. Fuel oil denotes heavy oil that is obtained from crude oil
  • Fuel Oil Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound. The intake may be through swallowing or inhaling fuel oil vapors
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Fuel Oil Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:

  • Fuel Oil Toxicity
  • Furnace Oil Poisoning
  • Heavy Oil Poisoning
  • Marine Fuel Poisoning

What are the Causes of Fuel Oil Poisoning?

  • Fuel Oil Poisoning is caused by the ingestion or inhalation of fuel oil. The chemical may also get into the eye, resulting in eye-related symptoms
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Fuel oil is a toxic substance that is also readily combustible

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Fuel Oil Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Fuel Oil Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body, such as the digestive system, respiratory system, vascular system, nervous system, skin and ENT may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Fuel Oil Poisoning may include:

  • Burning and associated pain in the mouth, throat, and food-pipe; this may affect the nose, ears, and eyes
  • Respiratory difficulties, if the chemical is inhaled
  • Throat inflammation may cause difficulty in swallowing, breathing
  • Skin burns and blistering
  • Vision abnormalities including loss of vision
  • Headache and lethargy
  • Nausea, vomiting (blood in vomit may be seen)
  • Bloody stools; diarrhea
  • Stomach and abdominal pain that may be cramping
  • Sudden reduction in blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Feeling dizzy or drowsy
  • Low level of alertness or response; depression
  • Individuals act ‘drunk’
  • Unable to walk properly; lack of coordinated movements
  • Seizures

How is First Aid administered for Fuel Oil Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Fuel Oil Poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number immediately, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Carefully remove the individual from the exposure area; move them to region of fresh air immediately
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • If exposure of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water. Any paint on skin may be washed away
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give water to drink
  • In case of symptoms that indicate difficulty in swallowing including vomiting or decreased alertness, do not give anything by way of mouth
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the compound bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Monitor vital signs
  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Gastric lavage for elimination of the substance from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions)
  • Wash eyes or skin repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining compound
  • Surgical treatment for skin burns including removal of burnt skin
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Fuel Oil Poisoning?

First aid for Fuel Oil Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Fuel Oil Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Fuel Oil Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms, with appropriate medication and early support, the outcome is generally good. This is mostly the case with mild poisoning
  • Since, fuel oil is a poisonous substance, the severity of damage to the body, and consequently the prognosis, is dependent on the amount of chemical ingested and promptness with which treatment is provided
  • In some case, damage to the mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tract may be severe. This can lead to severe pain, bleeding, and infection, and potentially worsen the outcome. The internal injuries may continue to worsen and deaths have been reported following a few weeks to months
  • In case of complications, such as aspiration of swallowed oil into the lungs or eye exposure leading to blindness (if the cornea is affected), the outcome may be adversely affected. Severe lung damage is a possibility

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Fuel Oil Poisoning be Prevented?

Fuel Oil Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any household products
  • Keeping any poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Keep all poisons correctly labeled and in suitable storage locations
  • Using appropriate protective wear when working with such chemicals (such as face masks and hand gloves)
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of consumption of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 28, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 27, 2018