Nicotine poisoning refers to toxicity related to nicotine products, such as cigarettes and vapes. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and headaches. In some cases, nicotine poisoning can be life threatening.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance naturally found in tobacco.

Nicotine poisoning is a relatively rare occurrence. However, it’s become more prevalent in recent years due to new nicotine products, such as electronic cigarettes (vapes) and pure liquid nicotine.

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), vapes and pure liquid nicotine contain higher amounts of nicotine. This can increase your risk of nicotine poisoning.

The increase in nicotine poisoning in the past decade is also associated with the time vapes became available to the general public in 2007, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for nicotine poisoning.

Nicotine primarily affects the heart and central nervous system, regardless of the amount you use. Too much nicotine can lead to toxicity.

According to the ALA, symptoms of toxicity may occur in two phases after ingesting nicotine.

Minutes after consuming nicotineSymptoms
15 to 60 minutesnausea
increased blood pressure
• abnormal heart rate (arrhythmia)
30 minutes to 4 hoursdiarrhea
shallow breathing
slower heartbeat
lower blood pressure
loss of appetite
extreme fatigue

When to seek emergency medical care

Get immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms after consuming nicotine:

It’s also important to get emergency medical care for a child who has been exposed to nicotine. The most common symptoms of nicotine poisoning for children are nausea and vomiting.

In some cases, nicotine exposure is fatal. This may be due to:

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Nicotine is found in varying quantities in the following products:

The lethal amount of nicotine in adults is 30–60 milligrams (mg) of nicotine, according to a 2013 review. Since there’s up to 14.5 mg of nicotine in a cigarette, you might think that smoking 4 cigarettes could kill you.

However, nicotine poisoning fatalities caused by smoking cigarettes are rare in adults. This is because the human body only absorbs 1–1.5 mg of nicotine from a cigarette.

The majority of nicotine poisoning cases are caused by electronic cigarettes or liquid nicotine.

The authors of a 2019 study found that doses between 1.6–100 mg caused nicotine poisoning.

In children, being exposed to 1 mg of nicotine for 1 kg of body weight may be fatal. It’s crucial to prevent children from being exposed to nicotine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are four methods of exposure:

  • inhalation
  • ingestion
  • skin contact
  • bodily fluid exposure

Treatment for nicotine poisoning depends on the type and severity of your symptoms. It usually requires treatment at the hospital.

Some of the following treatments may be prescribed:

Other treatments may be necessary depending on the damage done to your body.

The best way to prevent nicotine poisoning is to quit vaping, smoking, or using any products that contain nicotine.

The following measures can also help you minimize your risk:

  • Protect your skin, especially when using liquid nicotine.
  • Dispose of all nicotine products properly.
  • Store nicotine products properly when not in use.
  • Always keep nicotine products away from children.
  • Make sure you don’t leave out any containers with tobacco or nicotine residue on them.

Speak with a healthcare professional if you need more advice on how best to dispose of your nicotine products.

It’s important to get medical attention as soon as possible if you experience nicotine poisoning. According to the CDC, most people who receive prompt treatment fully recover without any complications.

However, in rare cases, death may occur.

Poison control center

Nicotine poisoning should be treated like any other type of poisoning.

If you or someone you’re with is experiencing nicotine toxicity, call the poison control center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. The center is open 24/7 to answer questions and offer advice for possible toxicity to a variety of substances.

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Is it rare to get nicotine poisoning?

Nicotine poisoning is rare. However, the number of cases is rising each year due to more people using electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine. The AAPCC has recorded nearly 6,000 cases in 2023 as of September.

How long does nicotine poisoning last?

According to the CDC, symptoms of nicotine poisoning may last 1–2 hours after mild exposure. In cases of severe exposure, symptoms may last 18–24 hours or fatality may occur within 1 hour of exposure.

Is nicotine a powerful poison?

Nicotine can be extremely harmful, especially for children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be fatal for a 1-year-old child.

Nicotine poisoning is rare. However, cases are slowly rising due to more people smoking electronic cigarettes or using liquid nicotine.

The best way to prevent nicotine poisoning is to cease smoking or using tobacco products.

If you experience nicotine poisoning, get immediate medical attention. With early intervention, the condition is most often cured and you can live without any complications.