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Cologne poisoning

Definition

Cologne is a scented liquid made from alcohol and essential oils. Cologne poisoning occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally swallows cologne.

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

  • Ethyl alcohol (ethanol)
  • Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol)

Note: This list may not include all poisonous ingredients in cologne.

Where Found

  • Various colognes

Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased level of consciousness, including coma (lack of responsiveness)
  • Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting (may be bloody)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Inability to walk in a normal manner
  • Low body temperature, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure
  • Too little or too much urine output
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures (convulsions)
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Stupor
  • Swaying from side to side
  • Throat pain
  • Uncoordinated movement

Low blood sugar may occur. Children are particularly prone to developing low blood sugar. Symptoms of low blood sugar can include

  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Weakness

Home Care

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless you are told to do so by Poison Control or a health care professional.

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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing support, including tube through the mouth and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • EKG (heart tracing)
  • Chest x-ray
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Laxative
  • Medication to treat symptoms

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance is for recovery.

Cologne poisoning may result in a condition similar to being drunk (alcohol intoxication) to severe breathing problems, seizures, and coma. A product with more isopropyl alcohol may potentially cause a more serious illness.

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.

Caraccio TR, McFee RB. Cosmetics and toilet articles. 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 100.

White SR. Toxic Alcohols. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al., eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 155.


Review Date: 1/20/2014
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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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