Medical Information
First Aid for Turpentine Oil Poisoning

First Aid for Turpentine Oil Poisoning

Ear, Nose, & Throat (ENT)
Eye & Vision
Contributed byKrish Tangella MD, MBAFeb 20, 2018

What is Turpentine Oil Poisoning?

  • Turpentine oil is an aromatic oil that is extracted from various parts of the pine tree. It is not meant for human consumption (drinking or swallowing)
  • However, turpentine oil has many commercial and domestic applications and is found in paint solvents, fragrant chemical compounds, cleaning products, etc. The oil is traditionally used in the treatment of joint and muscle pain, tooth pain, and chest congestio
  • Turpentine Oil Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake (swallowing) of 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)

Turpentine Oil Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Oil of Turpentine Poisoning
  • Spirit of Turpentine Poisoning
  • Turpentine Oil Toxicity
  • Wood Turpentine Poisoning

What are the Causes of Turpentine Oil Poisoning?

  • Turpentine Oil Poisoning is caused by intake (ingestion or inhalation) of the oil. The oil may also be spilled into the eye resulting in eye-related symptoms
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Turpentine oil is also found in certain soaps, cosmetic products, wood polishes, paint brush cleaners, furniture wax, food flavors, etc. The poison contained in the oil is called terpene

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 Turpentine Oil Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Turpentine 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 respiratory system, digestive system, urinary system, vascular system, and ENT may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Turpentine Oil Poisoning may include

  • Mouth, throat, and food-pipe may have burning sensation or burns; this may affect the eye, nose, and ears
  • The burns may be severe resulting even in perforations along the gastrointestinal tract
  • Swelling of throat leading to speaking, swallowing, and breathing difficulties
  • Breathing difficulties due to substance inhalation that may be severe; coughing and choking
  • Vision abnormalities including vision loss
  • Blood in vomit and/or stool
  • Burning sensation on skin; skin burns
  • Bluish discoloration of skin on the lips and beneath fingernails
  • Pain in the abdomen/stomach
  • Urination difficulties; blood in urine (hematuria)
  • Renal failure
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Weakness and collapse

How is First Aid administered for Turpentine Oil Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Turpentine Oil Poisoning:

  • If the individual with Turpentine Oil Poisoning is experiencing life-threatening symptoms, call 911 (or your local emergency help number) immediately
  • 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
  • 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
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • 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 and drop in blood pressure
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Surgical treatment for skin burns including removal of burnt skin

Who should administer First Aid for Turpentine Oil Poisoning?

First aid for Turpentine 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 Turpentine Oil Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Turpentine Oil Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between ingestion and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms early, through appropriate early medication and support, the outcome is generally good
  • In some case, burns in the mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tract may be severe, which may take longer to heal. Additionally, if a large quantity of turpentine oil is swallowed, it can lead severe pain, bleeding, and infection, and potentially worsen the outcome. The oil has the potential to cause holes in the GI tract
  • 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

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 Turpentine Oil Poisoning be Prevented?

Turpentine Oil Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any health or cosmetic products
  • Keeping cosmetics, medications, and other healthcare products out of reach of children in child-proof containers
  • Keeping poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

It is important to give your healthcare provider a complete list of prescription and non-prescription medications that are being currently taken. This will help them in assessing the possible drug interactions within various medications and help avoid/prevent accidental or unintentional toxic drug effects.

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
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Krish Tangella MD, MBA

Pathology, Medical Editorial Board, DoveMed Team


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