Mineral oil is a liquid oil made from petroleum. Mineral oil overdose occurs when someone swallows a large amount of this substance. This can be by accident or on purpose.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual overdose. If you or someone you are with has an overdose, 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.
Mineral oil can be poisonous in large amounts.
Mineral oil is sold just as the oil itself. It may also be found in some:
- Diaper rash medicines
- Eye care products
- Hemorrhoid medicines
Other products may also contain mineral oil.
Mineral oil has a laxative effect. Symptoms of an overdose may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dehydration (from severe diarrhea)
- Nausea and vomiting
If the mineral oil has been breathed into the lungs, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain and symptoms of pneumonia may develop.
Seek medical help right away. Do not make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.
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
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.
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
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
- Chest and abdominal x-rays
- ECG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
Treatment may include:
- Fluids through a vein (by IV)
- Medicine to treat symptoms
- Activated charcoal
- Tube through the nose into the stomach
- Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs and connected to a breathing machine (ventilator)
Mineral oil is not very poisonous, and recovery is likely. How well someone does depends on the amount of mineral oil swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance is for recovery.
The outcome may be poor if the oil enters the lungs.
Aronson JK. Paraffins. In: Aronson JK, ed. Meyler's Side Effects of Drugs. 16th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2016:494-498.
Wang GS, Buchanan JA. Hydrocarbons. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 152.
Review Date 11/13/2021
Updated 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.