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 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.
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 (seizures) (from breathing in large amounts)
- Drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance
- Difficulty breathing, sometimes leading to respiratory failure
- Loss of appetite
- Red, runny nose
- Stupor (decreased level of consciousness and confusion)
Severe poisonings (swallowing large amounts) from swallowing glue may lead to blockage of the gastrointestinal tract (from stomach to intestines), which causes 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 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
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.
Tests that may be done include:
- Chest x-ray
- ECG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
In severe cases, treatment may include:
- Fluids through a vein (by IV)
- Medicine to treat symptoms
- Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
How well someone does depends on how severe the poisoning is and how quickly treatment is received. 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.
Aronson JK. Organic solvents. In: Aronson JK, ed. Meyler's Side Effects of Drugs. 16th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2016:385-389.
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.