Furniture polish poisoning occurs when someone swallows or breathes in (inhales) liquid furniture polish. Some furniture polishes may also be sprayed into the eyes.
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.
Poisonous ingredients include hydrocarbons (such as waxes, oils, organic solvents).
This ingredient is found in various liquid furniture polishes.
Furniture polish poisoning can cause symptoms in many parts of the body. Symptoms depend on how the poisoning occurred.
Swallowing such poison may cause:
- Coma (decreased level of consciousness and lack of responsiveness)
- Breathing difficulty
- Low blood pressure that develops rapidly
- Severe pain in the throat, mouth area, nose, eyes, or ears
- Severe stomach pain
- Throat swelling
- Vomiting, possibly bloody
- Blood in your stools
If the poison touched your skin or eyes you may have:
- Skin burns and irritation
- Vision loss
If the poison is breathed in (inhaled or aspirated), the following can occur:
- Inflammation of the lungs
- Infection of the lungs (secondary pneumonia)
- Collapsed lung
- Fluid around the lung
- Lung bleeding
- Low blood pressure or shock
- Respiratory failure
- Coordination problems
- Blurred vision
Seek medical help right away. Do not make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.
If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do not give water or milk if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move the person to fresh air.
Before Calling Emergency
Get the following information:
- Person's age, weight, and condition
- Name of the product (and ingredients and strengths, if known)
- 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 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
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 as appropriate. The person may receive:
- Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth into the lungs, and a breathing machine (ventilator)
- Bronchoscopy: camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
- Chest x-ray
- EKG (heart tracing)
- Endoscopy: camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
- Fluids by IV (through the vein)
- Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
- Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
- Washing of the skin (irrigation), perhaps every few hours for several days
How well the person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster the person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Swallowing such poisons can have severe effects on many parts of the body. The outcome depends on the extent of this damage. Damage can continue to occur for several weeks after the hydrocarbon was swallowed.
If the poison gets into the lungs (aspiration), the lungs can be badly damaged.
Blanc PD. Acute responses to toxic exposures. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 75.
Lee DC. Hydrocarbons. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls, RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2014:chap158.
Update Date 11/4/2015
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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.