Aftershave Poisoning

Written by Bree Normandin and Elizabeth Boskey, PhD | Published on July 16, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is Aftershave Poisoning?

Aftershave is a lotion, gel, or liquid that is applied to the face after shaving. It is most often used by men. If swallowed, aftershave can produce harmful effects.

Aftershave poisoning can be a medical emergency. It may require immediate care.

The information discussed in this article is not intended to treat or manage poison exposure. If exposure occurs, call 911 or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Why Is Aftershave Poisonous?

Most aftershaves contain the poisonous ingredients isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) and ethyl alcohol. Other ingredients vary by brand.

What Are the Symptoms of Aftershave Poisoning?

Common symptoms of aftershave poisoning may include the following:

  • confusion
  • decreased alertness
  • muscle cramping
  • low blood sugar
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of consciousness
  • headache
  • lowered body temperature
  • low blood pressure
  • racing heartbeat
  • labored or slow breathing
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty walking
  • throat pain or irritation
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty urinating

Isopropanol can also cause additional symptoms:

  • lack of coordination
  • dizziness
  • unresponsive reflexes

Children who experience aftershave poisoning are at very high risk of developing low blood sugar. Low blood sugar in children can cause the following symptoms:

  • weakness
  • sleepiness
  • confusion
  • nausea
  • irritability

How Is Aftershave Poisoning Diagnosed?

Only a physician can diagnose aftershave poisoning. Children who suddenly begin to show signs of poisoning should be taken to a medical professional immediately.

How Is Aftershave Poisoning Treated?

It is important to seek immediate medical help for victims of aftershave poisoning. Never make a victim throw up, unless told to do so by a medical professional. You may give the victim water or milk, unless they are throwing up or having seizures.

Your doctor will want to know the victim’s age, weight, and symptoms in order to treat aftershave poisoning. They will also ask what kind of aftershave the victim drank, how much of it, and when. If possible, take the container with you to the doctor. This will help doctors to determine how much poison was ingested.

Once admitted to the ER, a doctor will assess the patient. The patient’s pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and breathing rate will be checked. The patient may also receive:

  • oxygen
  • activated charcoal
  • dialysis
  • IV fluids
  • laxatives

The poisoning victim may also need to have his or her stomach pumped. This removes the poison by inserting a tube down the throat and into the stomach.

What Can Be Expected in the Long Term?

Poisoning usually occurs in small children who accidentally drink aftershave. Alcoholics also sometimes drink aftershave when other alcohol is unavailable.

The outcome of aftershave poisoning depends on how much is swallowed. Aftershave poisoning is rarely deadly. Rare but serious complications may include seizures and severe breathing problems.

How Can Aftershave Poisoning Be Prevented?

Store all health and beauty products, including aftershave, securely out of children’s reach.

Calling Poison Control

The National Poison Control Center (NPCC) can provide additional information about aftershave poisoning. You can call them from anywhere in the United States at 1-800-222-1222. 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.

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