Lighter fluid is a flammable liquid found in cigarette lighters and other types of lighters. Lighter fluid poisoning occurs when someone swallows this substance.
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.
The harmful substances in lighter fluids are called hydrocarbons. They include:
Various lighter fluids contain these substances.
Below are symptoms of lighter fluid poisoning in different parts of the body.
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
KIDNEYS AND BLADDER
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
HEART AND BLOOD
LUNGS AND AIRWAYS
Get medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.
If the lighter fluid is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the person swallowed the lighter fluid, give them water or milk right away, if a provider tells you to do so. DO NOT give anything to drink if the person has symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness.
If the person breathed in fumes of the lighter fluid, move them to fresh air right away.
Have this information ready:
Your local poison control 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 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.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment may include:
How well someone does depends on how severe their poisoning is and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.
Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. Burns in the airway or gastrointestinal tract can lead to tissue necrosis, resulting in infection, shock, and death, even several months after the substance was first swallowed. Scars may form in these tissues leading to long-term difficulties with breathing, swallowing, and digestion.
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.