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Household glue poisoning

Definition

Most household glues, such as Elmer's Glue-All, are not poisonous. However, household glue poisoning can occur when someone intentionally breathes in glue fumes in an attempt to get "high." Industrial-strength glue is most dangerous.

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

Glue poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Ethanol
  • Xylene
  • Light aliphatic naphtha
  • N-hexane
  • Toluene

Where Found

Glue

Note: This list may not include all sources of household glue.

Symptoms

Symptoms of breathing in ("sniffing") glue fumes may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions (from breathing in large amounts)
  • Drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance
  • Excitability
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Red, runny nose

Severe poisonings caused by swallowing glue may cause:

Home Care

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

If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, 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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

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.

In more serious cases, the victim may receive:

  • Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Medications to treat symptoms

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.

Because household glue is relatively nonpoisonous, you should recover. However, heart, kidney, brain, and liver damage are possible from long-term poisoning.

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.

Mirkin DB. Benzene and related aromatic 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 94.


Review Date: 1/31/2014
Reviewed By: 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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