Diesel oil is a heavy oil used in diesel engines. Diesel oil poisoning occurs when someone swallows diesel oil.
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.
Diesel oil poisoning can cause symptoms in many parts of the body.
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
- Loss of vision
- Severe pain in the throat
- Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
HEART AND BLOOD VESSELS
- Low blood pressure that develops rapidly
LUNGS AND AIRWAYS
- Breathing difficulty
- Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)
- Chemical pneumonitis
- Secondary bacterial or viral infection
- Hemorrhagic pulmonary edema
- Respiratory distress or failure
- Pleural effusion
Many of the most dangerous effects of hydrocarbon (such as diesel oil) poisoning are due to inhaling the fumes.
- Coma (decreased level of consciousness and lack of responsiveness)
- Blurred vision
- Brain damage from low oxygen levels
Seek medical help right away. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
Before Calling Emergency
Get the following information:
- The person's age, weight, and condition
- Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
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 national 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.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:
- Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth and into the lungs, connected to a breathing machine (ventilator)
- Bronchoscopy: camera down the throat to see burns in the airways and lungs
- Chest x-ray
- ECG (heart tracing)
- Endoscopy: camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
- Fluids through the vein (by IV)
- Surgical removal of burned skin (skin debridement)
- Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
- Washing of the skin (irrigation), perhaps every few hours for several days
How well the person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster the person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Swallowing diesel fuel can damage the linings of the:
Serious and permanent damage can occur if the diesel gets into the lungs.
The harsh taste of diesel fuel makes it unlikely that a large amount will be swallowed. However, cases of poisoning have occurred in people trying to suck (siphon) gas from an automobile tank using their mouth and a garden hose (or similar tube). This practice is very dangerous and is not advised.
Blanc PD. Acute responses to toxic exposures. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 75.
Wang GS, Buchanan JA. Hydrocarbons. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 152.
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.