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Diesel oil

Diesel oil is a heavy oil used in diesel engines. Diesel oil poisoning occurs when someone swallows diesel oil.

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

Oil

Poisonous Ingredient

Various hydrocarbons

Where Found

Diesel oil

Symptoms

Eyes, ears, nose, and throat:

  • Loss of vision
  • Severe pain in the throat
  • Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue

Gastrointestinal:

Heart and blood vessels:

Lungs and airways:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)

Nervous system:

  • Agitation
  • Coma (decreased level of consciousness and lack of responsiveness)
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Incoordination

Skin:

  • Burns
  • Irritation

Home Care

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

If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control

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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

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

  • Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth and into the lungs, connected to a breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (heart tracing)
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Fluids through the vein (by IV)
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage )
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Swallowing diesel fuel can damage the linings of the:

  • Esophagus
  • Intestines
  • Mouth
  • Stomach
  • Throat

Serious and permanent damage can occur if the diesel gets into the lungs.

The harsh taste of diesel fuel makes it unlikely that a large amount will be swallowed. However, cases of poisoning have occurred in people trying to suck (siphon) gas from an automobile tank using their mouth and a garden hose (or similar tube). This practice is very dangerous and is not advised.

References

Lee DC. Hydrocarbons. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al., eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 158.

Lewander WJ, Aleguas A Jr. Petroleum distillates and plant hydrocarbons. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 92.

Updated: 1/24/2014

Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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