Aftershave is a lotion, gel, or liquid that you can apply to your face after shaving. It’s most often used by men. If swallowed, aftershave can produce harmful effects. This is known as aftershave poisoning.
Most aftershaves contain isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or ethyl alcohol. These ingredients are poisonous when swallowed. Other ingredients vary by brand and product.
Aftershave poisoning usually occurs in small children who accidentally drink aftershave. Some people who suffer from alcohol abuse may also drink aftershave when other alcohol is unavailable to become intoxicated.
Common symptoms of aftershave poisoning include:
- decreased alertness
- muscle cramping
- low blood sugar
- abdominal pain
- loss of consciousness
- lowered body temperature
- low blood pressure
- racing heartbeat
- labored or slow breathing
- slurred speech
- difficulty walking
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty urinating
Consuming isopropanol, a common ingredient in aftershave, can also cause:
- lack of coordination
- diminished reflexes
Children who experience aftershave poisoning are at very high risk of developing low blood sugar. Low blood sugar in children can cause weakness, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, and irritability.
What to Do
Get medical help immediately if your child shows signs of poisoning. Call 911 or take them to an emergency room. Never try to make your child vomit unless a medical professional asks you to do so.
It’s helpful to the 911 operator or poison control specialist if you can provide the type and quantity of aftershave your child drank. Bring the container of aftershave with you to the emergency room if you can. This helps the healthcare provider determine the contents of the bottle and the appropriate course of treatment.
If your child is having a seizure, roll them onto their side and make sure their airway stays clear. Call 911 or take them to an emergency room right away.
If your child begins to show signs of poisoning, seek medical treatment right away. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent complications that may cause permanent impairment and disability.
When your child is admitted to the emergency department, a doctor will assess them. They will want to know your child’s age, weight, and symptoms. They will also ask what kind of aftershave your child drank, how much they drank, and when they drank it. If you’re able to bring the container of aftershave with you, it will help your child’s doctor determine how much poison they ingested.
If your child is diagnosed with aftershave poisoning, a doctor or nurse will monitor their pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Your child may also receive oxygen and IV fluids. Activated charcoal, dialysis, gastric lavage (stomach pumping), and laxatives are generally no longer recommended in cases of isopropyl alcohol poisoning.
The outcome of aftershave poisoning depends on how much aftershave is swallowed, how early the poisoning is recognized, and how soon your child receives treatment. Aftershave poisoning is rarely deadly. Less common but potentially life-threatening complications include stomach bleeding, prolonged seizures, and coma.
Once your child has been released from the hospital, rest and a clear liquid diet (such as water, broth, or juices) can help them recover.
It’s important to store all of your health and beauty products, including aftershave, securely out of children’s reach. Don’t assume that even if your baby can reach the bottle, they can’t open in. No bottle or container top is so secure that a baby can’t open it. To baby-proof your bathroom cabinets and drawers, try a baby lock.
There are a several options available that work depending on the type of cabinet you want to secure. Magnetic locks can be mounted inside your cabinets and drawers. Adhesive latches are a cheap and less permanent way to secure cupboards, appliances, and even the toilet.
Make sure you put your aftershave and other potentially harmful products away again after using them. Don’t leave them out on a counter where they’re within your child’s reach. When the bottle is empty and you’re ready to discard it, be sure to rinse it thoroughly and throw it away safely.
If you’re traveling with small children, consider keeping your bathroom kit secure with a small bathroom bag with a lock. Just remember that your liquids may need to be separated to get through security. If your vacation takes you to someone else’s house, be sure to note where dangerous substances like aftershave are stored and ask if they have placed any childproof locks on the medicine cabinet or bottles.
The National Poison Control Center (NPCC) can provide additional information about aftershave poisoning. You can call them from anywhere in the United States at 800-222-1222. This service is free and confidential. NPCC professionals are happy to answer questions about poisoning and poisoning prevention. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.