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Shellac poisoning

Definition

This is poisoning from swallowing shellac.

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.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Ethanol
  • Isopropanol
  • Methanol
  • Methyl isobutyl ketone

Where Found

  • Paint remover
  • Shellac
  • Wood finishing products

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

Symptoms

  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
  • Heart and blood
    • Convulsions
    • Disturbance of the acid balance of the blood (leads to multi-organ failure)
    • Low blood pressure
  • Kidneys
    • Kidney failure
  • Lungs and airways
  • Muscles
    • Leg cramps
    • Weakness
  • Nervous system
  • Skin
    • Cyanosis (blue skin, lips, or fingernails)
  • Stomach and intestines
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

Home Treatment

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

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, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

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

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

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

What to expect at the emergency room

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:

  • Breathing tube
  • Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
  • Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Hemodialysis
  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
  • Oxygen
  • Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
  • Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days

Expectations (prognosis)

Isopropanol and methanol are extremely poisonous. As little as 2 tablespoons of methanol can kill a child, while 2 to 8 ounces can be deadly for adults.

How well a patient does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a patient gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

References

Jacobsen D, Hovda KE. Methanol, ethylene glycol, and other toxic alcohols. 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 32.


Review Date: 2/28/2012
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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