Search Encyclopedia:    
List of Topics Print This Page
 

Paraffin poisoning


Definition:

Paraffin is a solid waxy substance used to make candles and other items. This article discusses what may occur if you swallow or eat paraffin.

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.

Alternative Names:

Wax poisoning - paraffin

Poisonous Ingredient:

Paraffin

Where Found:
  • Some arthritis bath/spa treatments
  • Some candles
  • Some waxes

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

Symptoms:

Eating a lot of paraffin can lead to intestinal obstruction, which can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and possible constipation.

Home Treatment:

Do NOT make the person throw up. Contact poison control for guidance.

Before Calling Emergency:

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of product (as well as the ingredients and strength, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The 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. The patient may receive:

  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Medications to treat symptoms
Expectations (prognosis):

Paraffin is generally nontoxic (not harmful) if swallowed in small amounts. Recovery is likely.

References:

In: Ford MD, Delaney KA, Ling LJ, Erickson T, eds. Clinical Toxicology. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2001.


Review Date: 8/3/2011
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. 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 physician 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. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

   View History
  Paraffin poisoning

Related Links
Request an Appointment Online or call
1-800-789-PENN (7366)
   
   

 

About UPHS   Contact Us   Site Map   Privacy Statement   Legal Disclaimer   Terms of Use

The University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, PA 1-800-789-PENN © 2014, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania