A gasoline poisoning is caused by the excessive intake of gasoline and can be acute or chronic. The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, and intoxication. The therapy depends on the severity of the symptoms and includes the possibility of increased fluid intake and gastric lavage.
What is gasoline poisoning?
Gasoline poisoning occurs when the body takes in too much gasoline. It primarily affects the skin, the digestive tract and the respiratory tract. Excess gasoline can be ingested orally or inhaled.
When ingested orally, the body reacts with the self-protective measure of vomiting, but the vomit can get into the windpipe and cause suffocation there. Depending on how long the patient is exposed to gasoline, the poisoning can be acute or chronic.
The consequences of gasoline poisoning vary in severity depending on how long the person has been exposed to the gasoline. In addition to vomiting and nausea, dizziness, intoxication with euphoria and drunkenness, headaches, severe nervousness or excitement, convulsions, unconsciousness, failure of physical reflexes, circulatory failure and respiratory paralysis can occur.
Epileptic seizures and cyanosis have also been reported. Cyanosis is the bluish-purple discoloration of the skin and usually indicates severe internal damage.
The causes of gasoline poisoning are excessive inhalation or oral intake of gasoline. When dealing with the substance normally, such as when refueling the vehicle, gasoline poisoning only occurs in exceptional cases.
Petrol station employees and tank cleaners are at risk if they do not comply with the safety regulations, as are drivers of inadequately secured petrol transports, as well as workers and mechanics who come into contact with petrol. Small children whose parents keep gasoline in their private garage and do not secure it adequately are also exposed to a particular risk. These causes usually lead to acute gasoline poisoning.
The cause of chronic gasoline poisoning is usually multiple inhalations, the so-called sniffing, of gasoline. This is said to induce a state of intoxication and often makes those affected addictive. In addition to the symptoms of acute gasoline poisoning, anemia and neurological and psychological symptoms, for example memory and concentration disorders and changes in personality, can occur.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
The acute and chronic forms of gasoline poisoning differ both in the course and in the symptoms that occur. In acute gasoline poisoning, symptoms of irritation in the stomach, intestines and mouth occur first. Furthermore, severe breathing difficulties and cramps occur, which sometimes lead to unconsciousness.
If the gasoline is ingested by mouth, vomiting can occur spontaneously, and the vomit may even get into the windpipe. This can lead to fatal attacks of suffocation. Small children die if they swallow at least ten milliliters of gasoline. In adults, the lowest lethal dose is seven to eight milliliters per kilogram of body weight.
Chronic gasoline poisoning is characterized by such symptoms as anemia, mucosal bleeding, depression, tremor, polyneuritis, and kidney failure. Anemia is aplastic anemia with a decrease in the number of all blood cells. General symptoms of aplastic anemia are fatigue, headache, poor performance, nausea, pale skin and a tendency to collapse.
In addition, there is constant tissue bleeding due to the reduced number of platelets. Because of the smaller number of white blood cells, there is an increased tendency to get infections. In the long term, headaches, fatigue, excitability and tremors can persist. Furthermore, there is a risk of chronic liver, kidney or pancreas damage with the sequelae. Chronic indigestion, jaundice, ascites and severe neurological symptoms up to dementia can develop.
Diagnosis & course
The diagnosis of gasoline poisoning consists first of all in a detailed anamnesis. This is followed by a detailed physical examination, toxicological diagnosis and a blood analysis. If necessary, an X-ray examination of the chest can be carried out.
In the general anamnesis, the doctor must ask about previous illnesses, the consumed gasoline dose, occupational and family risks and relevant medication intake. In this way, other diseases are excluded and the first indications of the severity of the poisoning are found.
The general physical exam needs to measure blood pressure and pulse, check pupillary and reflex function, and measure body temperature. A cardiological examination, an examination of the oropharynx and a skin analysis are also part of the examination process.
The toxicological examination, the aim of which is to detect the gasoline and the amount of gasoline, is ideally carried out in vomit or urine, as both give the fastest results. If necessary, a gastroscopy or plasma analysis must be initiated.
The prognosis depends on the severity of the poisoning and the previous general condition of the patient, but it is usually good. The kidneys, lungs and other organs are rarely affected. Then complications such as pneumothorax, coughing up blood or fibrosis occur.
Gasoline poisoning is a serious invasion of the body and should be treated immediately by a doctor. If this poisoning is not treated correctly and in a timely manner, it can also lead to death in the worst case. In the case of gasoline poisoning, the consequences are very different and depend on the amount of gasoline ingested.
Usually these are irritation symptoms in the mouth, intestines and stomach. This is followed by shortness of breath, loss of consciousness and cramps in the muscles. If the gasoline was taken orally, vomiting often ensues afterwards. With low gasoline poisoning, headache and drunkenness occur as a result of ingestion.
These symptoms increase with the amount ingested and lead to euphoria, cramps, and with high amounts to deep anesthesia or even to fatal paralysis. The therapy for gasoline poisoning takes place with paraffin oil. If larger amounts have been taken, gastric lavage takes place.
Since the gasoline is very irritating to customers, antibiotics are often prescribed here to prevent pneumonia. Gasoline poisoning must be treated by a doctor or hospital as it can have dire consequences if treated incorrectly or inadequately.
When should you go to the doctor?
As a rule, a doctor must be consulted immediately in the event of gasoline poisoning. It is also advisable to notify the emergency doctor directly in the event of acute poisoning in order to avoid complications and possible death of the person concerned. If there is no treatment, the person affected can also die of gasoline poisoning. A doctor should also be seen in the case of gasoline poisoning if the person is unconscious or has dizziness or nausea.
Likewise, personality changes or general confusion may indicate gasoline poisoning, so these symptoms should be investigated. Chronic gasoline poisoning also leads to drowsiness and shortness of breath. In acute emergencies, go to a hospital or call an emergency doctor immediately. This is especially true if the person concerned can no longer move or has already lost consciousness. However, even with small amounts of gasoline, a doctor should be consulted in order to avoid possible complications.
Treatment & Therapy
Immediate measures to treat those affected by gasoline poisoning are, as far as possible, rescuing them from the reach of the toxin and supplying them with oxygen. For reasons of self-protection, first aiders should refrain from attempting ventilation.
If the gasoline poisoning was caused orally, the person concerned must drink as much as possible. Forcibly induced vomiting of the stomach contents is not advisable, as there is a risk of the vomit entering the trachea. There are special drugs that the hospital has in stock for this purpose, but gastric lavage can also be performed if necessary to remove the gasoline from the digestive tract.
Other symptoms are treated with appropriate medication.
Outlook & forecast
If you have mild to moderate gasoline poisoning, the chances of a full recovery are good. The first symptoms are relieved as soon as pure oxygen is inhaled instead of gasoline. If countermeasures are initiated in good time and medical care is provided, the patient is normally symptom-free within a few days or weeks. The airways heal with good treatment.
The supply of sufficient fluids and the avoidance of further irritants when eating also help in the healing process. Pollutants such as the consumption of nicotine or alcohol should be avoided in order to accelerate the regeneration of the mucous membranes in the throat and pharynx.
The prognosis for acute gasoline poisoning is less optimistic. In many patients there is damage to the vessels, the airways or the spinal cord, which can no longer be treated successfully. It also increases the risk of lifelong impairments to brain activity and the nervous system.
Damage to the cerebral cortex can cause serious secondary diseases. These include sciatic neuritis or traumatic epilepsy. In addition, a defect in the lungs can occur. In severe cases, pulmonary bleeding sets in and organ activity fails. Artificial ventilation is necessary and essential for survival. Without a donor lung transplant, a life-threatening condition persists.
Self-protection is important to avoid gasoline poisoning. This takes place primarily through compliance with the current safety rules for working with toxic substances. Children are best protected by securely storing gasoline.
Acute or chronic gasoline poisoning always requires follow-up care. In the case of acute gasoline poisoning, there is the possibility of consequential damage to the detoxification organs, but also to the skin or other organs. The risk of cancer is increased. In the chronic form of gasoline poisoning, the poisoning has crept in over a long period of time. There is a risk of a multi-system disease such as MCS.
Even if light to moderate gasoline poisoning can be treated well, the risk of long-term effects remains. These can appear years or decades later. Without regular follow-up care, possible long-term effects can no longer be brought into a causal connection with the poisoning. Follow-up care is also necessary because chronic gasoline poisoning is rarely recognized and treated immediately.
In acute gasoline poisoning, how quickly the treatment is carried out depends on the severity of the intoxication. Long-term damage is even more likely here than with creeping and chronic gasoline poisoning. Serious poisoning leads to irreversible damage to the airways, blood vessels, the brain or the nervous system.
Permanent sequelae such as epilepsy caused by poisoning or a lung defect require lifelong follow-up care. Transplants or operations may be necessary. Such interventions also do not take place without lifelong follow-up treatment. Drug therapy for such sequelae requires monitoring.
You can do that yourself
If gasoline poisoning is suspected, an emergency doctor should be consulted. The emergency services must be provided with all important information on the circumstances, the time of the poisoning and the age and state of health of the person concerned on the basis of the W questions. Until the rescue service arrives, the person affected should be taken out of the reach of the toxin and supplied with oxygen. However, attempts to ventilate should be avoided for reasons of self-protection.
The person affected – if conscious – should instead drink as much as possible and raise their upper body. If possible, gastric lavage should be performed on site. Under no circumstances should the affected person be made to vomit on their own, as the gasoline can get into the windpipe or damage the esophagus. If the person concerned is unconscious, he must be brought into the stable side position.
In the event of pauses in breathing, cardiopulmonary resuscitation must be initiated until the emergency doctor arrives. Further treatment steps then take place in the ambulance and later in the hospital. Afterwards, the main priority for the affected person is to take care of themselves and to eat a diet that is as low-irritation as possible. Contact with petrol and other irritating substances should also be temporarily stopped.