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Petroleum jelly overdose

Definition

Petroleum jelly is a semisolid mixture of fat-based substances made from petroleum. This article discusses what happens when someone swallows a lot of petroleum jelly.

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.

See also: Overdose

Alternative Names

Vaseline overdose

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Petroleum jelly (petrolatum)

Where Found

  • Some skin care products (including Vaseline)
  • Some eye lubricant ointments

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritation of eyes, nose, throat, and skin
  • Shortness of breath

Home Care

Stop using the product.

Do NOT make the person throw up unless told to do so by poison control. Inhaling the substance during vomiting can lead to severe problems.

If the product is in the eyes, flush with large amounts of water for at least 15 minutes.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

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

Poison Control What to Expect at the Emergency Room

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

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:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing support
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Intravenous (given through a vein) fluids
  • Laxative
  • Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the substance
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to empty the stomach (gastric lavage)

Outlook (Prognosis)

Petroleum jelly is considered nontoxic. Recovery is likely.

Prevention

Keep all poisons or potential poisons properly labeled and out of the reach of children.

References

Shannon MW. Emergency Management of Poisoning. 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 2.


Review Date: 11/6/2013
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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