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First Aid for Kerosene Poisoning

Last updated May 3, 2020

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Kerosene Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound. The intake may be through swallowing kerosene.

What is Kerosene Poisoning?

  • Kerosene is a byproduct of petroleum distillation. It is colorless liquid with a distinctive odor that is used as a fuel both domestically and commercially
  • Kerosene Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the compound. The intake may be through swallowing, inhaling fumes, or skin/eye contact with kerosene
  • 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)

Kerosene Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:

  • Coal Oil Poisoning
  • Kerosine Poisoning
  • Kerosene Toxicity
  • Lamp Oil Poisoning
  • Paraffin Oil Poisoning

What are the Causes of Kerosene Poisoning?

  • Kerosene Poisoning is caused by the ingestion or inhalation of kerosene. The chemical may also get into the eye, resulting in eye-related symptoms. In some cases, skin contact may also present symptoms
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Kerosene 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 Kerosene Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Kerosene 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 Kerosene 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; inhalation of large quantities may result in dizziness, vomiting, headaches, lack of coordination, drowsiness, etc.
  • Throat inflammation may cause difficulty in swallowing, breathing
  • Skin burns
  • Eye exposure may cause immediate stinging or burning sensation; tearing of the eye
  • Vision abnormalities including loss of vision
  • Headache and lethargy
  • Nausea, vomiting (blood in vomit may be seen)
  • Bloody stools
  • Stomach and abdominal pain that may be cramping
  • Sudden reduction in blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Feeling dizzy or drowsy
  • Low level of alertness or response
  • Individuals act ‘drunk’
  • Unable to walk properly; lack of coordinated movements
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

How is First Aid administered for Kerosene Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Kerosene 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
  • If the clothes are soaked in or smell of kerosene, immediately change them and wash the involved body area thoroughly with soap and water
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • Place the individual in a comfortable seated position in a well-ventilated space; try to avoid making them lie down
  • If the individual is unconscious, make them lie on their side, to prevent aspiration of vomit into their lungs
  • If exposure of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual. There is a high risk for vomit getting into the respiratory tract that may result in severe complications and lung damage
  • 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) may be considered based on assessment of the healthcare provider
  • 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 Kerosene Poisoning?

First aid for Kerosene 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 Kerosene Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Kerosene 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 (usually within 6 hours), with appropriate medication and early support, the outcome is generally good. This is mostly the case with mild poisoning when only small amounts of kerosene is ingested. The individual/child may be observed at home too
  • Since, kerosene 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 after the poisoning incident
  • In case of complications, such as aspiration of swallowed oil into the lungs causing pneumonitis, or eye exposure leading to blindness (if the cornea is affected), the outcome may be adversely affected

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 Kerosene Poisoning be Prevented?

Kerosene 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 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: Aug. 3, 2017
Last updated: May 3, 2020