Dimethyl formaldehyde poisoning; Dimethyl ketone poisoning; Nail polish remover poisoning
Acetone is a chemical used in many household products. This article discusses poisoning from swallowing acetone-based products. Poisoning may also occur from breathing in fumes or absorbing it through the skin.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The poisonous ingredients include:
- Dimethyl formaldehyde
- Dimethyl ketone
Acetone can be found in:
- Nail polish remover
- Some cleaning solutions
- Some glues, including rubber cement
- Some lacquers
Other products may also contain acetone.
Below are symptoms of acetone poisoning or exposure in different parts of the body.
HEART AND BLOOD VESSELS (CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM)
- Low blood pressure
STOMACH AND INTESTINES (GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in belly area
- Person may have a fruity odor
- Sweet taste in mouth
- Feeling of drunkenness
- Coma (unconscious, unresponsive)
- Stupor (confusion, decreased level of consciousness)
- Lack of coordination
- Increased need to urinate
Seek medical help right away. Do NOT make a person throw up unless the poison control center or a health care provider tells you to.
Before Calling Emergency
Have this information ready:
- The person's age, weight, and condition
- The name of the product (ingredients and strength, if known)
- The time it was swallowed
- The amount swallowed
Your local poison 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 hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. 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 that contains the acetone with you to the hospital, if possible.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated. The person may receive:
- Blood tests
- Breathing support, including oxygen and a breathing tube through the mouth into the lungs
- Chest x-ray
- ECG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
- Intravenous fluids (IV, fluids given through a vein)
- Medicines to treat symptoms
- Tube through the nose into the stomach to empty the stomach (gastric lavage)
Accidentally drinking small amounts of acetone/nail polish remover is unlikely to harm you as an adult. However, even small amounts can be dangerous to your child, so it is important to keep this and all household chemicals in a safe place.
If the person survives past 48 hours, the chances for recovery are good.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) website. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. Toxicological profile for acetone.
Nelson ME. Toxic alcohols. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 141.
Last reviewed on: 5/17/2021
Reviewed 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.