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First Aid for Rubber Cement Poisoning

Last updated March 1, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Rubber Cement Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. The exposure may be through inhalation, skin or eye contact, or following ingestion of the chemical.

What is Rubber Cement Poisoning?

  • Rubber cements are adhesives used in situations when their easy-removal may be necessary, without causing damage to the materials (paper, cloth) involved. Due to this requirement, they are usually polymer-based (or latex-based) liquid solvents
  • And, due to the presence of such solvents in rubber cements, these compounds are unconventionally used as intoxicating ‘sniffs’
  • Rubber Cement Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. The exposure may be through inhalation, skin or eye contact, or following ingestion of the chemical
  • 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)

Rubber Cement Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Elmer's 'No-Wrinkle' Poisoning
  • Rubber Cement Toxicity

What are the Causes of Rubber Cement Poisoning?

  • Rubber Cement Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of rubber cement based glues and adhesives that are usually in liquid form. The exposure may also be through direct skin and eye contact, or upon inhaling the vapors
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Even though most household glues are non-toxic, some of the toxic solvents present in rubber cements include acetone, isopropanol, toluene, methyl chloroform, heptane, dichlorobenzene, and n-hexane. Many of the substances are also highly-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 Rubber Cement Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Rubber Cement 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, nervous, respiratory, ENT and skin systems, may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Rubber Cement Poisoning may include:

  • Stomach and abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Burning and associated pain in the mouth, throat, and food-pipe; this may affect the nose, ears, and eyes
  • Swollen throat may cause difficulty in swallowing, breathing
  • Skin irritation and burning sensation
  • Respiratory difficulties, which may be severe if the chemical is inhaled; absence of breathing
  • Headache
  • Reduction in blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Change in blood pH levels, resulting in several organs being affected
  • Individuals act ‘drunk’ or confused
  • Lack of coordinated movements, spasms in muscles. Other neurological symptoms
  • Vision abnormalities including vision loss
  • Eye irritation and pain on contact with the substance; blurry vision
  • Collapse and unconsciousness

How is First Aid administered for Rubber Cement Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Rubber Cement 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
  • Following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give water or milk 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:

  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Gastric lavage for elimination of the substance from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions)
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Following this, a suitable skin or eye ointment may be used to treat the exposure
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Rubber Cement Poisoning?

First aid for Rubber Cement 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 Rubber Cement Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Rubber Cement Poisoning is dependent on the type and 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. In most cases, the prognosis is good
  • However, severe poisoning can result in serious complications and the prognosis can be ascertained only on a case-by-case basis. Damage to several organs of the body, such as to the liver, kidney, brain, and lung, are reported following exposure to large amounts of the compound (especially inhalation of the compound)

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 Rubber Cement Poisoning be Prevented?

Rubber Cement Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any health, cosmetic, or 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
  • 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. 1, 2017
Last updated: March 1, 2018