Kerosene is an oil used as a fuel for lamps, as well as heating and cooking. This article discusses the harmful effects from swallowing or breathing in kerosene.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Hydrocarbons, substances that contain only hydrogen and carbon.
These ingredients can be found in:
Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.
Kerosene poisoning can cause symptoms in various parts of the body.
AIRWAYS AND LUNGS
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
HEART AND BLOOD
Get medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care provider.
If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a provider. DO NOT give water or milk if the person is unconscious (has a decreased level of alertness).
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move them to fresh air.
Get the following information:
Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This 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.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:
How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Swallowing kerosene may cause damage to the linings of the mouth, throat, esophagus (food pipe), stomach, and intestines. If kerosene gets into the lungs (aspiration), serious and, possibly, permanent lung damage can occur.
Damage can continue to occur for several weeks after the poison was swallowed. Death may occur as long as a month later.
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.