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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 absorbing it through the skin.

This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage poisoning from acetone. If you or someone you are with is exposed to this substance, call your local emergency number (such as 911) or a local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

Acetone; Dimethyl formaldehyde; Dimethyl ketone

Where Found

Acetone can be found in:

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

Other products may also contain acetone.

Symptoms

Below are symptoms of acetone poisoning or exposure in different parts of the body.

HEART AND BLOOD VESSELS (CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM)

  • Low blood pressure

STOMACH AND INTESTINES (GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM)

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in belly area
  • Person may have a fruity odor
  • Sweet taste in mouth

NERVOUS SYSTEM

  • Feeling of drunkenness
  • Coma (unconscious, unresponsive)
  • Drowsiness
  • Stupor (confusion, decreased level of consciousness)
  • Lack of coordination

BREATHING (RESPIRATORY) SYSTEM

URINARY SYSTEM

  • Increased need to urinate

Home Care

Seek medical help right away. Do NOT make a person throw up unless the poison control center or a health care provider tells you to.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

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

Poison Control

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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

Take the container that contains the acetone with you to the hospital, if possible.

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

  • Blood tests
  • Breathing support, including oxygen and a breathing tube through the mouth into the lungs
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Intravenous fluids (IV, fluids given through a vein)
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the nose into the stomach to empty the stomach (gastric lavage)

Outlook (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.

Alternative Names

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

References

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxicological profile for acetone. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. Available at: www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/TP.asp?id=5&tid=1. Accessed August 17, 2015.

White SA. Toxic alcohols. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 155.

Update Date 7/6/2015

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