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Hydrocarbon pneumonia

Definition

Hydrocarbon pneumonia is caused by drinking or breathing in gasoline, kerosene, furniture polish, paint thinner, or other oily materials or solvents. These hydrocarbons have a very low viscosity. This means that they are very very thin and slippery. If you tried to drink these hydrocarbons, some would lilley slip down your windpipe and into your lungs rather than going down your food pipe (esophagus) and into your stomach. This can easily happen if you try to siphon gas out of a gas tank with a hose and your mouth.

These products cause fairly rapid changes in the lungs, including inflammation, swelling, and bleeding.

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 a local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Pneumonia - hydrocarbon

Symptoms

Signs and tests

The health care provider will check the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.

The following tests may be done:

Treatment

Those with mild symptoms may need to be seen by doctors in an emergency room, but may not require a hospital stay.

Persons with moderate and severe symptoms are normally admitted to the hospital, occasionally to an intensive care unit (ICU).

Hospital treatment may include:

  • Breathing tube
  • Oxygen

Expectations (prognosis)

Most children who drink or inhale hydrocarbon products and develop chemical pneumonitis recover fully following treatment. Highly toxic hydrocarbons may lead to rapid respiratory failure and death.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

If you know or suspect that your child has swallowed or inhaled a hydrocarbon product, take them to the emergency room immediately. DO NOT use ipecac to make the person throw up.

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. 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. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Prevention

If you have young children, be sure to identify and store materials containing hydrocarbons carefully.

References

Marx J. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2006.


Review Date: 2/1/2013
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 A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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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