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Acetone poisoning

Acetone is a chemical used in many household products. This article discusses poisoning from swallowing acetone-based products. Poisoning may also occur from breathing in fumes or absorption through the skin.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or a local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Dimethyl formaldehyde poisoning; Dimethyl ketone poisoning; Nail polish remover poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

Acetone; Dimethyl formaldehyde; Dimethyl ketone

Where Found

  • Fingernail polish remover
  • Some cleaning solutions
  • Some glues, including rubber cement
  • Some lacquers

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

Symptoms

Cardiovascular system

  • Low blood pressure

Gastrointestinal system

  • Nausea
  • Pain in belly area (abdomen)
  • Person may have a fruity odor
  • Sweet taste in mouth
  • Vomiting

Nervous system

  • Acting as if drunk
  • Coma
  • Drowsiness
  • Stupor (confusion, decreased level of consciousness)
  • Uncoordination¬†

Respiratory system

Urinary system

  • Increased need to urinate

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • Intravenous fluids (fluids given through a vein)
  • Tube through the nose into the stomach to empty the stomach (gastric lavage )
  • Oxygen, if needed

Expectations (prognosis)

Accidentally drinking small amounts of acetone/nail polish remover is unlikely to harm you as an adult. However even small amounts can be dangerous to your child, so it is important to keep this and all household chemicals in a safe place.

If the person survives past 48 hours, the chances for recovery are good.

Prevention

Keep all poisons in their original and/or childproof container, with labels visible, and out of the reach of children.

References

White SA.Toxic Alcohols. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2013:chap. 155.

Updated: 10/11/2013

Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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