Gasoline Poisoning – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Gasoline poisoning

Gasoline poisoning results from overingestion of gasoline and can be acute or chronic. The most common symptoms are headaches, dizziness and intoxication. Therapy depends on the severity of the symptoms and includes the options of increased fluid intake and gastric lavage.

What is gasoline poisoning?

Gasoline poisoning occurs when the body absorbs too much motor gasoline. It primarily affects the skin, digestive tract and respiratory tract. An excess of gasoline can be ingested orally or inhaled.

If ingested, the body reacts by vomiting as a self-protective measure, but the vomit can enter the windpipe and cause suffocation. Depending on how long the patient is exposed to the 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, cramps , unconsciousness, failure of physical reflexes, circulatory failure and respiratory paralysis can occur.

Seizures and cyanosis have also been reported. Cyanosis is the bluish-purple discoloration of the skin and usually indicates severe internal damage.


Gasoline poisoning is caused by excessive inhalation or oral intake of gasoline. When dealing with the substance normally, such as when refueling the vehicle, petrol poisoning only occurs in exceptional cases.

Gas station employees and tank cleaners are at risk if they do not comply with safety regulations, as are drivers of inadequately secured petrol transports and workers and mechanics who come into contact with petrol. Small children are also at particular risk if their parents keep petrol in their private garage and do not adequately secure it. These causes usually lead to acute gasoline poisoning.

The cause of chronic petrol poisoning is usually the repeated inhalation, the so-called sniffing, of petrol. This is supposed to induce a state of intoxication and often makes those affected addicted. In addition to the symptoms of acute gasoline poisoning, anemia and neurological and psychological symptoms, such as memory and concentration disorders and personality changes, can then occur.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The acute and chronic forms of gasoline poisoning differ both in the course and in the symptoms that appear. Acute gasoline poisoning initially causes irritation in the stomach, intestines and mouth. Furthermore, severe breathing difficulties and cramps occur, which sometimes lead to unconsciousness .

If the gasoline is taken by mouth, spontaneous vomiting may occur, and the vomit may even enter the windpipe. This can lead to fatal suffocation attacks. Small children die when swallowing at least ten milliliters of petrol. 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 hemorrhage, depression , tremor , polyneuritis and renal failure . Anemia is aplastic anemia with a reduction in the number of all blood cells. Common symptoms of aplastic anemia include fatigue , headaches, poor performance, nausea, pale skin, and a tendency to collapse.

Furthermore, constant tissue bleeding occurs due to the reduced number of thrombocytes. Due to the smaller number of white blood cells, there is an increased tendency to infections. In the long term, headaches, fatigue , excitability, and tremors may persist. Furthermore, there is a risk of chronic liver, kidney or pancreas damage with the consequences. This can lead to chronic digestive problems, jaundice, abdominal dropsy and severe neurological symptoms up to and including dementia.

Diagnosis & History

The diagnosis of gasoline poisoning consists first of all in a detailed anamnesis. This is followed by a detailed physical examination, toxicological diagnostics 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 dose of gasoline consumed, occupational and family risks and relevant medication intake. In this way, other diseases are ruled out and initial indications of the severity of the poisoning are found.

The general physical examination includes measuring blood pressure and pulse , checking pupillary response and reflex function, and measuring body temperature. A cardiological examination, an examination of the mouth and throat area and a skin analysis are also part of the examination process.

The toxicological test, the aim of which is to determine the presence of petrol and the amount of petrol, is ideally carried out in the vomit or urine, as both provide the quickest results. If necessary, a gastroscopy or a plasma analysis must be initiated.

The prognosis depends on the severity of the poisoning and the previous general condition of the patient, but is usually good. Kidneys, lungs and other organs are rarely affected. Then complications such as pneumothorax , coughing up blood or fibrosis occur.


Gasoline poisoning is a serious intrusion into the body and should be treated immediately by a doctor. If this poisoning is not treated properly and in a timely manner, it can even lead to death in the worst case. In the case of gasoline poisoning, the consequences vary widely and depend on the amount of gasoline ingested.

As a rule, these are irritations in the mouth, intestines and stomach. This is followed by shortness of breath, loss of consciousness and spasms in the muscles. If the gasoline has been ingested orally, it is often followed by vomiting. With low levels of gasoline poisoning, headaches and drunkenness appear as a result of ingestion.

These symptoms increase with the amount ingested and lead to euphoria, cramps, in high amounts to a deep narcosis or even fatal paralysis. Gasoline poisoning is treated with paraffin oil. If larger amounts were ingested, gastric lavage is carried out.

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 serious consequences if treated incorrectly or inadequately.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the case of gasoline poisoning, a doctor must be consulted immediately. In the event of acute poisoning, it is also advisable to call the emergency doctor immediately in order to avoid complications and possible death of the person concerned. If there is no treatment, the person affected can also die from gasoline poisoning. A doctor should also be consulted for gasoline poisoning if the person concerned loses consciousness or suffers from dizziness and nausea.

Likewise, personality changes or general confusion may indicate gasoline poisoning, so these symptoms should be investigated. In the case of chronic gasoline poisoning, drowsiness and shortness of breath also occur. In acute emergencies, go to a hospital or call an ambulance immediately. This is especially true if the person affected can no longer move or has already lost consciousness. However, even with small amounts of gasoline, a doctor should be consulted to avoid possible complications.

Treatment & Therapy

Immediate measures to treat victims of gasoline poisoning include, where possible, evacuation from the reach of the poison and providing oxygen. For reasons of self-protection, first responders should refrain from attempting ventilation.

If the gasoline poisoning was caused orally, the person affected must drink as much as possible. It is not advisable to violently vomit the contents of the stomach, as there is a risk of the vomit entering the trachea . There are special medicines available for this that the hospital has in stock, but if necessary, a gastric lavage can also be carried out to remove the petrol from the digestive tract.

Other symptoms are treated with appropriate medication.

Outlook & Forecast

Mild to moderate gasoline poisoning has a good chance of a full recovery. The first symptoms are alleviated as soon as pure oxygen is inhaled instead of petrol. If countermeasures are initiated in good time and medical care is provided, the patient is usually symptom-free within a few days or weeks. The respiratory tract heals with good treatment.

Drinking enough liquid and avoiding other irritants when eating also help in the healing process. Harmful substances 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. Many patients experience damage to the vessels, airways or spinal cord that cannot be successfully treated. In addition, the risk of lifelong impairment of brain activity and the nervous system increases.

Damage to the cerebral cortex can result in serious secondary diseases. They include sciatic neuritis or traumatic epilepsy . In addition, a defect in the lungs can occur. In severe cases, bleeding occurs in the lungs and there is a failure of organ activity. Artificial respiration is necessary and essential for survival. Without a donor lung transplant, the condition remains life-threatening.


Self-protection is important to avoid gasoline poisoning. This is primarily done by adhering to the current safety rules for working with toxic substances. Children are best protected by storing gasoline safely.


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 happened gradually over a long period of time. Here there is a risk of a multisystem disease such as MCS.

Even if mild to moderate gasoline poisoning can be treated well, the risk of long-term effects remains. These can occur years or decades later. Without regular follow-up care, any late effects can no longer be causally linked to the poisoning. Follow-up care is also necessary because chronic gasoline poisoning is rarely recognized and treated immediately.

In the case of acute gasoline poisoning, the speed of treatment depends on the severity of the poisoning. Long-term damage is even more likely here than with insidious and chronic gasoline poisoning. Severe poisoning causes irreversible damage to the respiratory tract, blood vessels, brain or nervous system.

Permanent sequelae such as poisoning-related epilepsy or a lung defect require lifelong follow-up care. Transplants or operations may be necessary. Even such interventions cannot be carried out without lifelong follow-up treatment. Drug therapy of such consequential damage requires monitoring.

You can do that yourself

If gasoline poisoning is suspected, an ambulance must be consulted. The emergency services must be provided with all the important information about the circumstances, time of poisoning and the age and state of health of the person concerned using the W-questions. The victim should be removed from the reach of the toxin and given oxygen until emergency services arrive . However, attempts at ventilation should be avoided for reasons of self-protection.

The affected person – if conscious – should instead drink as much as possible and position the upper body upwards. If possible, gastric lavage should be performed on site. Under no circumstances should the person concerned be made to vomit on their own , as the petrol can get into the trachea or damage the esophagus. If the person concerned is unconscious, they must be placed in the stable side position .

If breathing stops, cardiopulmonary resuscitation must be initiated before the emergency doctor arrives . Further treatment steps then take place in the ambulance and later in the hospital. After that, rest and a diet that is as non-irritating as possible applies to the affected person . Contact with gasoline and other irritants should also be temporarily discontinued.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.