Lip moisturizer poisoning

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Definition

This poisoning results from eating or swallowing lip moisturizers containing para-aminobenzoic acid.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or 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.

Alternative Names

Chapstick poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

Para-aminobenzoic acid is a naturally occurring substance that can absorb ultraviolet (UV) light. It is often used in sunscreen products, including lip moisturizers containing sunblocks. It is harmful in large amounts. It can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Where Found

Para-aminobenzoic acid is found in certain lip balm and moisturizers containing a sunblock. Chapstick is one brand name.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Eye irritation (if the product touched the eye)
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath (with extremely high doses)

If you have an allergy to a dye in the moisturizer, you may develop tongue and throat swelling, wheezing, and trouble breathing.

Home Care

DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

If you have an allergic reaction, call 911 or your local emergency number.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The person's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control

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. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. 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.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Blood and urine tests will be done. The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal to prevent the poison from absorbing into the digestive tract
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Medicines to treat symptoms

For an allergic reaction, the person may need:

  • Airway and breathing support, including oxygen. In extreme cases, a tube may be passed through the mouth into the lungs to prevent aspiration. A breathing machine (ventilator) would then be needed.
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Medicines specific for allergic reactions

Outlook (Prognosis)

Recovery is very likely. The ingredients are generally considered to be nontoxic.

References

Kulig K. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 147.

Parkinson A, Ogilvie BW, Buckley DB, et al. Biotransformation of xenobiotics. In: Klaassen CD, ed. Casarett and Doull's Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons. 8th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education/Medical; 2013:chap 6.

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