Candles are made out of wax. Candle poisoning occurs when someone swallows candle wax. This can happen by accident or on purpose.
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 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.
The substances in candles that can be harmful are:
- Paraffin wax
- Man-made (synthetic) wax
- Vegetable oil based wax
Candle wax is considered nonpoisonous, but it may cause a blockage in the intestines if a large amount is swallowed. A person who is allergic to the scent or color ingredients in the candle may have an allergic reaction from touching the candle. Symptoms may include rash or blistering of the skin, or swelling, tearing or redness of the eye if it has been touched by the fingers which had contact with the candles.
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
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
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 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
A trip to the emergency room may not be necessary.
If medical care is needed, the 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 a laxative to help the wax move quickly through the stomach and intestines. This will help prevent a bowel blockage.
Candle wax is considered nonpoisonous, and recovery is very likely.
How well someone does depends on how much wax they swallowed and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.
Meehan TJ. Approach to the poisoned patient. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 139.
Theobald JL, Kostic MA. Poisoning. In: Kliegman RM, St Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 77.
Review Date 10/3/2019
Updated by: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.