What Is Nicotine Poisoning?

Nicotine poisoning may cause vomiting.
Nicotine poisoning can cause stomach cramps.
A frequent smoker might experience nicotine poisoning.
Overuse of nicotine patches may lead to nicotine poisoning.
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  • Written By: N. Swensson
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Nicotine is a chemical found in tobacco leaves, some medications, and products to help people stop smoking. Nicotine poisoning is the result of ingesting too much nicotine into the body. Some of the symptoms of this condition include agitation, convulsions, and vomiting. Regular use of tobacco products or products to stop smoking will probably not result in poisoning, as it usually takes larger amounts of the chemical to cause poisoning. People with nicotine poisoning often can be successfully treated with help from a poison control center, but in other cases a visit to a doctor or emergency room may be in order, as this condition can be fatal if left untreated.

A person who has been poisoned with nicotine might become nauseated and may drool or sweat. Other early symptoms of nicotine poisoning may include headaches and stomach cramps. If exposure continues, more serious symptoms such as vomiting and trouble breathing could occur. Eventually, if acute nicotine poisoning develops, it could cause seizures, fainting, coma or even death in some cases. Most of the time, a person can recover with no lasting effects, but prompt medical attention is usually a good idea.

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Since it may take less nicotine to poison a child than an adult, children are more likely to be poisoned if they accidentally ingest items that contain nicotine. Many cases of poisoning result from children eating nicotine gum or chewing on patches. Children can also be poisoned if they get into and eat medications that have nicotine as an ingredient. Workers who process tobacco plants can sometimes be poisoned from being in contact with the wet leaves of the plant as well.

Medical assistance is usually needed for cases of nicotine poisoning. If poisoning is suspected, contacting a poison control center may help. In most cases, inducing vomiting is not recommended without first consulting a medical professional. If the person absorbed nicotine through the skin, it may help to wash the area for 15 minutes with soap and water.

Sometimes a person may need to see a doctor to confirm that nicotine poisoning is causing the problems. A doctor may order blood and urine tests to see if nicotine is present in the body. Doctors then can administer necessary treatment, such as a gastric lavage, which is a procedure that cleans out the stomach. Activated charcoal may also be used for treatment.

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Discuss this Article

anon318257
Post 9

Soap may actually increase absorption of nicotine through the skin.

anon258642
Post 8

One night after smoking for maybe tow hours of hookah, I ended up fainting, hitting my head on the ground, apparently having a small seizure. Then I couldn't walk for two hours. I was really shaky and my heart rate was high. Kids, don't smoke too much hookah.

turquoise
Post 7

I read a sad article about nicotine poisoning in the paper the other day. It reported that lives of child workers in Africa who roll tobacco for a living are at risk because of nicotine poisoning.

I hadn't realized that tobacco could be absorbed through the skin so easily. All these kids do is touch tobacco but the damage that is done to their bodies is equivalent to smoking fifty cigarettes a day. And most of them are so young that they quickly get nicotine poisoning and do not receive any medical care.

The only time I had heard about nicotine poisoning before this was when I was in college. We had a large chipmunk population on our campus and public smoking had not be outlawed then. During winter when chipmunks couldn't find food, they would eat the cigarette butts thrown by college students. A lot of them would die because of nicotine poisoning.

It's just so sad. I think children and animals are particularly at risk for nicotine poisoning. We need to do more to protect them from it.

fify
Post 6

@turkay1-- I'm not sure how long they last, but I know that the symptoms of nicotine poisoning appear right away, so it would be immediately after smoking or consuming nicotine.

You definitely had some of the symptoms of nicotine overdose, but since you didn't vomit or develop anything worse, you might not have been poisoned. I think you were lucky, it could have been a lot worse.

candyquilt
Post 5

How long do symptoms of nicontine poisoning generally last or how much of nicotine consumption will result in poisoning?

I'm curious because I experienced something like this last week. I went to a hookah bar with my friends and we were there for a long time, probably about four hours. I didn't smoke hookah that entire time obviously, but I did smoke a lot.

When I got home that evening, I started getting a terrible migraine and I felt like I might throw up. I could not sleep the entire night, I kept the window open even though it was freezing because I felt like I wasn't getting enough oxygen.

I feel asleep close to sunrise and when I woke up, I was much better. I still had a headache but the nausea was gone.

Do you think I had nicotine overdose or poisoning?

kylee07drg
Post 4

I heard about a group of teenage boys on a camping trip who decided to play a prank on a kid there. They waited until he was asleep and covered his arm with nicotine patches.

This kid had never smoked before. He was only twelve. He slept for awhile after they had put the patches on, and he awoke with his arm in terrible pain.

He started throwing up. The kids were laughing at him, until he fell over and had a seizure. That's when one of them went for help.

On the way to the hospital, his breathing and heart rate were highly abnormal. He wound up in a coma for several days. They nearly killed him.

wavy58
Post 3

My husband's dad didn't believe in taking his kids to the hospital. So, when my husband was five and he accidentally chewed half a piece of nicotine gum, his dad just let him be sick because of it.

He started vomiting and drooling. He felt very weak. His dad just told him that he was getting what he deserved for taking what wasn't his.

Luckily, he didn't suffer any long-term effects from it. Since there is no anecdote for it, and he had a mild case, there really was nothing the doctors could have done, anyway. I doubt they would have cleaned out his stomach for such a small amount.

However, I think it is terrible that his dad didn't take him to a doctor, or at least call a poison control center. What if his condition had progressed? He could have died.

seag47
Post 2

@cloudel – My hound dog got one of my husband's high dose nicotine patches, and he could have died from it. I'm glad I was home to see him drooling and vomiting. He threw up the patch, and I rushed him to the vet.

On the way there, he had a seizure. I was so scared he was going to die. The vet told me that the fact he had been vomiting was a good thing, though, because he was cleansing his system a little.

Since he had ingested a high dose of nicotine, she sedated him and pumped his stomach. She also had to give him medicine to stop the seizures.

She didn't need to use charcoal on him, since he had already been vomiting. I'm so glad that he survived. She told me that some dogs don't make it.

She also mentioned that consuming cigarettes kills some dogs. However, they taste horrible, so most dogs will leave them alone after one taste.

cloudel
Post 1

My husband has been using nicotine patches to quit smoking for the past several months. He is forgetful and often leaves them lying around. Since we have dogs in the house, I always try to keep the patches out of their reach.

If a dog were to chew on a patch, I assume that the vet would use activated charcoal to make him vomit. That is what they usually use when dogs have eaten something that they shouldn't have.

Has anyone ever had a pet chew on a nicotine patch? What happened to it, and what did your vet do?

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