Type your tag names separated by a space and hit enter

Hydrocarbon Poisoning

Hydrocarbon Poisoning is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

To view the entire topic, please or purchase a subscription.

Emergency Central is a collection of disease, drug, and test information including 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult, Davis’s Drug, McGraw-Hill Medical’s Diagnosaurus®, Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests, and MEDLINE Journals created for emergency medicine professionals. Explore these free sample topics:

Emergency Central

-- The first section of this topic is shown below --



  • Main complication from hydrocarbon exposure is aspiration:
    • Hydrocarbon aspiration primarily affects central nervous and respiratory systems.
  • Physical properties determine type and extent of toxicity:
    • Viscosity (resistance to flow):
      • Higher aspiration risk from products with lower viscosity
    • Volatility (ability of a substance to vaporize):
      • Hypoxia from aromatic hydrocarbons displacing alveolar air
    • Surface tension (ability to adhere to itself at liquid's surface):
      • Low surface tension allows easy spread from oropharynx to trachea, promoting aspiration (e.g., mineral oil, seal oil).
  • Volatile-substance abuse:
    • Common solvents abused:
      • Typewriter correction fluid
      • Adhesive
      • Gasoline
      • Cigarette-lighter fluid
    • Sniffing: Product inhaled directly from container
    • Huffing: Product inhaled through a soaked rag held to face
    • Bagging: Product poured into bag and multiple inhalations taken from bag
  • Major classes of hydrocarbons:
    • Aliphatics:
      • Include kerosene, mineral oil, seal oil, gasoline, solvents, and paint thinners
      • Pulmonary toxicity via aspiration
      • Asphyxiation from gaseous methane and butane by displacement of alveolar oxygen
    • Halogenated hydrocarbons:
      • Include carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethane
      • Found in industrial settings as solvents
      • Well absorbed by lungs and gut
      • High toxicity
      • Liver and renal failure associated with ingestion
    • Cyclics or aromatic compounds include toluene and xylene:
      • Highly volatile and well absorbed from gut
      • Death from benzene reported with 15 mL ingestion
    • Terpenes or wood distillates include turpentine and pine oil:
      • Significant GI tract absorption
      • Significant CNS depression


  • Accidental exposures typical in young children
  • Inhalation abuse of volatile hydrocarbons
  • Suicide attempts in adolescents and adults

-- To view the remaining sections of this topic, please or purchase a subscription --


Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Hydrocarbon Poisoning." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307216/all/Hydrocarbon_Poisoning.
Hydrocarbon Poisoning. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307216/all/Hydrocarbon_Poisoning. Accessed April 26, 2019.
Hydrocarbon Poisoning. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307216/all/Hydrocarbon_Poisoning
Hydrocarbon Poisoning [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 26]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307216/all/Hydrocarbon_Poisoning.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Hydrocarbon Poisoning ID - 307216 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307216/all/Hydrocarbon_Poisoning PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -