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Hydrocarbon Poisoning, Emergency Medicine

Reviewed 06/2017



  • Main complication from hydrocarbon exposure is aspiration:

    • Hydrocarbon aspiration primarily affects central nervous and respiratory systems.

  • Physical properties determine type and exte...


Signs and Symptoms

  • Often asymptomatic at presentation

  • Odor of hydrocarbons on breath

  • Early: Euphoria:

    • Disinhibition

  • Late: Dysphoria:

    • Ataxia

    • Confusion

    • Hallucination

  • Sudden sniffing death:

    • Cardiac arres...



  • Decontaminate clothes, skin, and hair of any hydrocarbon exposure

  • Do not induce emesis.

  • Ipecac contraindicated owing to increased risk of aspiration

  • Keep volatile-substance abusers ...



Admission Criteria

  • Symptomatic patients

  • Patients with potential delayed organ toxicity (carbon tetrachloride or other toxic additives)

Discharge Criteria

  • Observe for 6 hr then dischar...

Pearls and Pitfalls

  • Main complication from hydrocarbon exposure is aspiration:

    • Aspiration risk is inversely related to viscosity and surface tension and directly related to volatility

  • Provide external d...

Additional Reading

  • Anas  N, Namasonthi  V, Ginsburg  CM. Criteria for hospitalizing children who have ingested products containing hydrocarbons. JAMA.  1981;246:840–843.

  • Dice  WH, Ward  G, Kelly  ...



  • 982.3 Toxic effect of other chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents

  • 987.1 Toxic effect of other hydrocarbon gas

  • 989.2 Toxic effect of chlorinated hydrocarbons

  • 987.0 Toxic effect of liquefied petroleum...

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