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Eucalyptus oil overdose

Eucalyptus oil overdose occurs when someone swallows a large amount of a product that contains this oil. This can be by accident or on purpose.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual overdose. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual overdose. If you or someone you are with overdoses, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

Eucalyptus oil can be harmful in large amounts.

Where Found

Eucalyptus oil is an ingredient in many over-the-counter products, including some:

  • Medicated rubs and liniments
  • Diaper rash creams
  • Inhalers to relieve nasal congestion
  • Medicine for sore gums, mouth, and throat
  • Mouthwashes

Other products may also contain eucalyptus oil.

Symptoms

Below are symptoms of a eucalyptus oil overdose in different parts of the body.

AIRWAYS AND LUNGS

EYES, EARS, NOSE, THROAT, AND MOUTH

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Burning sensation in mouth
  • Tiny pupils

HEART AND BLOOD

MUSCLES AND JOINTS

NERVOUS SYSTEM

SKIN 

  • Redness and swelling (from the oil touching the skin)

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

Home Care

Seek medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.

If the oil is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strength, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control

Your local poison 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 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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

Take the container to the hospital with you, if possible.

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.

The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support, including tube down the windpipe to help with breathing and protect the windpipe and lungs from getting eucalyptus oil into them when vomiting
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Laxative
  • Medicine to help reverse the effects of the oil
  • Tube through the nose into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
  • Tube down the throat and into the lungs to assess damage (bronchoscopy)

Outlook (Prognosis)

Survival past 48 hours is usually a good sign that recovery will occur. If any damage to the kidneys has occurred, it may take several months to heal. Drowsiness may persist for several days.

References

Graeme KA. Toxic plant ingestions. In: Auerbach, PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 64.

Maypole J, Woolf AD. Essential oils. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 101.

McMullan JT, Duvivier EH, Pollack CV. Seizure disorders. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 102.

Shih RD. Plants, mushrooms, and herbal medications. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 164.

Update Date 10/13/2015

Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.