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Paraffin poisoning

Paraffin is a solid waxy substance used to make candles and other items. This article discusses what may occur if you swallow or eat paraffin.

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 the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Wax poisoning - paraffin

Poisonous Ingredient

Paraffin

Where Found

  • Some arthritis bath/spa treatments
  • Some candles
  • Some waxes

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

Symptoms

Eating a lot of paraffin can lead to intestinal obstruction, which can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and possible constipation.

Home Treatment

Do NOT make the person throw up. Contact poison control for guidance.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of product (as well as the ingredients and strength, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. 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. The patient may receive:

  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Medications to treat symptoms

Expectations (prognosis)

Paraffin is generally nontoxic (not harmful) if swallowed in small amounts. Recovery is likely.

References

In: Ford MD, Delaney KA, Ling LJ, Erickson T, eds. Clinical Toxicology. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2001.

Updated: 8/3/2011

Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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