Shellac poisoning can occur from swallowing shellac.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call the local emergency number (such as 911), or the local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
The substances in shellac that can be harmful are:
- Methyl isobutyl ketone
These substances are found in:
- Paint remover
- Wood finishing products
Other products may also contain these substances.
Below are symptoms of shellac poisoning in different parts of the body.
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
- Blurred vision
There are many types of eye problems and vision disturbances, such as: Halos Blurred vision (the loss of sharpness of vision and the inability to see...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Wide pupils
HEART AND BLOOD
- Low blood pressure
- Severe change of acid level in the blood, which can cause organ failure
- Kidney failure
LUNGS AND AIRWAYS
- Rapid, shallow breathing
Rapid, shallow breathing
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- Fluid in the lungs
- Blood in the lungs
- Stopped breathing
MUSCLES AND BONES
- Leg cramps
- Coma (decreased level of consciousness and lack of responsiveness)
Decreased alertness is the most severe state of reduced awareness and is a serious condition. A coma is a state of decreased alertness from which a p...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Seizures (convulsions)
- Blue-colored skin, lips, or fingernails
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
Do not make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to. Seek medical help right away.
If the shellac is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the shellac was swallowed, give water to the person right away, unless instructed otherwise by a provider. Do not give water if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, seizures, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
Before Calling Emergency
Have this information ready:
- Person's age, weight, and condition
- Name of the product (and ingredients, if known)
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
Poison control center
For a POISON EMERGENCY call:1-800-222-1222ANYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATESThis national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. This ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
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.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
Tests that may be done include:
- Blood and urine tests
- Bronchoscopy -- camera down the throat to look for burns in the airways and lungs
- Chest x-ray
- ECG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
- Endoscopy: camera down the throat to look for burns in the esophagus and the stomach
Treatment may include:
- Fluids through a vein (IV)
- Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
- Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
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- Washing of the skin (irrigation), perhaps every few hours for several days
- Surgery to remove burned skin
- Hemodialysis (kidney machine)
- Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
Isopropanol and methanol are extremely poisonous. As little as 2 tablespoons (14.8 mL) of methanol can kill a child, while 2 to 8 ounces (59 to 236 mL) can be deadly for adults.
How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.
Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. Burns in the airway or gastrointestinal tract can lead to tissue necrosis, resulting in infection, shock and death, even several months after the substance was first swallowed. Scars may form in these tissues leading to long-term difficulties with breathing, swallowing, and digestion.
Aronson JK. Aliphatic alcohols. In: Aronson JK, ed. Meyler's Side Effects of Drugs. 16th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2016:146.
Nelson ME. Toxic alcohols. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 141.
Review Date: 11/13/2021
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.