Slippery and Dangerous: Household Hydrocarbons
oil and household lubricating oil are hydrocarbons.
liquids can easily go down the wrong way, into the lungs, when
someone swallows them. Other hydrocarbons include lamp oil, torch
fuel, lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, motor oil, heating oil,
hair oil, and some kinds of furniture polish.
center received recent calls about toddlers who
drank baby oil or lubricating oil. Each child had to be observed
very carefully for signs of aspiration, that is, hydrocarbons going
down into their lungs.
Coughing, choking, and
fever are common signs of hydrocarbon aspiration. Lung irritation
and pneumonia, even death, can result. Symptoms can happen quickly –
within a couple of hours or even sooner. If there are no symptoms in
24 hours, the child should remain fine.
Prevention is very
important, because aspirating a hydrocarbon is so dangerous. Always
re-close the child resistant caps. Lock oils and other hydrocarbons
out of children’s reach – even bottles of baby oil! Don’t put these
products down and turn your back, even for a second. It takes only a
second for a child to grab the bottle and take a drink.
If someone tries to
swallow oil or another hydrocarbon, call the poison center
right away at 1-800-222-1222.
The poison center expert, a nurse or pharmacist, will ask you:
Is the person
coughing, choking, or having any other symptoms?
What is the product?
When did this happen?
How old is the person?
Does he or she have
other health problems?
What is your phone
Then, the specialist in
poison information will tell you exactly what to do. Sometimes,
close observation at home will be enough; the poison center will
stay in touch with you by phone for a day or two. Sometimes,
emergency department care will be needed. If so, the poison center
will provide treatment advice to the emergency department staff.