Most household glues, such as Elmer's Glue-All, are not poisonous. However, household glue poisoning can occur when someone breathes in glue fumes on purpose in an attempt to get "high." Industrial-strength glue is most dangerous.
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 harmful ingredients in glue are:
- Light aliphatic naphtha
Household glues contain these substances. Other glues may contain other substances.
Symptoms of breathing in ("sniffing") glue fumes may include:
- Convulsions (from breathing in large amounts)
- Drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance
- Loss of appetite
- Red, runny nose
- Low oxygen level in the blood and organs (respiratory failure)
Severe poisonings caused by swallowing glue may cause:
- Blockage of the passage from the stomach into the small intestine, which causes abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
- Blockage in the intestines (small and large bowel) with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
Get medical help right away. Do NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to. If the person breathed in glue fumes, move them to fresh air right away.
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 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 provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.
In more serious cases, the person may receive:
- Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
- Chest x-ray
- EKG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
- Fluids through a vein (by IV)
- Medicine to treat symptoms
How well someone does depends on how severe their poisoning is and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.
Because household glue is fairly nonpoisonous, recovery is likely. However, heart, kidney, brain, and liver damage are possible from long-term poisoning.
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: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 158.
Mirkin DB. Benzene and related aromatic hydrocarbons. 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 94.
Zosel AE. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 143.
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.