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First Aid for Propane Poisoning

Last updated Feb. 26, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Propane Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake (swallowing or breathing-in) of any product containing the compound.

What is Propane Poisoning?

  • Propane is an organic compound that is present as a colorless and odorless gas. It is a byproduct obtained from petroleum refinery
  • Propane is a component of domestic cooking gas (or LPG). It is also used for as an industrial and vehicle fuel, hot air balloon fuel, as a refrigerant, oxy-acetylene blow torches, and propellants (room fresheners and aerosol spray cans)
  • Propane Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake (swallowing or breathing-in) of any product containing the compound
  • 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)

Propane Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Propane Toxicity
  • Tricarbane Poisoning

What are the Causes of Propane Poisoning?

  • Propane Poisoning is caused by the ingestion or inhalation or propane and propane-based products
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Even though propane is not a highly-toxic substance, it can cause asphyxiation and breathing difficulties. Besides, it is a highly-flammable dense gas that can settle down on the floor and accumulate

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 Propane Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Propane Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Propane Poisoning may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever and headache
  • Mouth and throat may present burning sensation
  • Skin irritation
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Irregular or rapid heart-rate
  • Arms and legs present pain; lethargy
  • Feeling dizzy, lack of coordinated movement
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

How is First Aid administered for Propane Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Propane 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
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Otherwise, following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give milk or 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, such as abnormal heart rate
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Propane Poisoning?

First aid for Propane 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 Propane Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Propane 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 exposure is only for a short duration and appropriate medical support was immediately provided, the outcome is generally good. In case of severe exposure/inhalation and delayed treatment, the outcome may be guarded
  • Long-term exposure can result in severe symptoms, such as loss of oxygen supply to the brain and coma. In such cases, deaths are known to occur

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 Propane Poisoning be Prevented?

Propane 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 (such as gas masks) when working with such chemical gases
  • 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 9, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 26, 2018