Methanol is a substance that can occur naturally in small amounts in the body. The main sources of methanol in the body include fruits, vegetables, and diet drinks that contain aspartame.
Methanol is a type of alcohol that is sometimes used for industrial and automotive purposes. It can be toxic if you eat or drink it in amounts as small as 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) or if you inhale it. Methanol is sometimes called "wood alcohol."
A test can be done to measure the amount of methanol in your blood.
How the Test is Performed
A blood sample is needed. The blood is collected from a vein, most often in your arm or hand venipuncture.
How to Prepare for the Test
No special preparation is necessary.
How the Test will Feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing where the needle was inserted.
Why the Test is Performed
This test is done to see if you have a toxic level of methanol in your body. You should not drink or inhale methanol. However, some people accidentally drink methanol, or drink it on purpose as a substitute for grain alcohol (ethanol).
Methanol is very poisonous if you eat or drink it in toxic amounts as little as 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters). Methanol poisoning mainly affects the digestive system, nervous system, and eyes.
A normal result is below a toxic cut-off level.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal result means you may have methanol poisoning.
Risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Emergency Response Safety and Health Database. Methanol: systemic agent. www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/EmergencyResponseCard_29750029.html. Updated May 12, 2011. Accessed March 17, 2021.
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.
Nelson LS. Acute poisoning. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 102.
Review Date 10/18/2020
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.