Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol overdose

General or Other | Emergency Medicine | Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol overdose (Disease)


Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol, 2-propanol, propan-2-ol) is commonly used as a disinfectant, antifreeze, and solvent, and typically comprises 70 percent of rubbing alcohol. The term rubbing alcohol has become a general non-specific term for either isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or ethyl alcohol (ethanol) rubbing-alcohol products.

Product labels for rubbing alcohol include a number of warnings about the chemical, including the flammability hazards and its intended use only as a topical antiseptic and not for internal wounds or consumption. It should be used in a well-ventilated area due to inhalation hazards.

Like ethanol, isopropyl alcohols precise mechanism of action in the central nervous system (CNS) remains uncertain. Changes in membrane fluidity and/or function, and interactions with neurotransmitter receptors, are believed to account for the CNS effects of alcohols and other simple hydrocarbons.

Causes and Risk factors

Poisoning can occur from ingestion, inhalation, or consumption of rubbing alcohol. Fatality from isolated isopropyl alcohol toxicity is rare, but can result from injury due to inebriant effects, such as untreated coma with airway compromise, or rarely, cardiovascular depression and shock following massive ingestion. Isopropyl alcohol is a sedative-hypnotic agent whose toxicity closely resembles that of ethanol, with which it shares strong structural similarity.

Diagnosis and treatment

Treatment is supportive and depends on the severity of the intoxication but may include: intravenous fluids, and support of the respirations. A proton pump inhibitor and/or histamine 2 blocker may be administered for the upper gastrointestinal bleeding. ...

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