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Side Effects of Inhaling Isopropyl Alcohol

author image Kristie Jernigan
Kristie Jernigan is a health writer with over 17 years of experience as a medical social worker. She has worked mainly with the elderly population and with children. She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and early childhood from East Tennessee State University and a Master of Science in health care administration and gerontology from the University of Phoenix.
Side Effects of Inhaling Isopropyl Alcohol
Headaches are one effect that can come from inhalation of isopropyl alcohol. Photo Credit headache image by Jarek Miarka from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

Isopropyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol, is often used in the home or in medical facilities to treat various conditions or to sterilize instruments and skin. However, if isopropyl alcohol is inhaled there can be serious side effects. Inhalation can cause a number of symptoms, including headaches, nausea, vomiting, irritation of the nose and mucous membranes, throat irritations, and even difficulty with breathing.

Headache, Nausea and Vomiting

According to Purdue University, inhaling isopropyl alcohol can lead to headaches. These headaches can come on with just a whiff of the alcohol or with more long-term exposure. If there is longer exposure, the fumes from the alcohol can affect your digestive tract and this can result in nausea and vomiting. According to Purdue University, do not use alcohol to bathe someone who is experiencing a fever because of these serious side effects that can occur. Inhalation of alcohol can be especially dangerous for children since their systems are less able to deal with the fumes.


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, one side effect of inhaling isopropyl alcohol is the irritation of mucous membranes. In extreme situations when inhalation of isopropyl alcohol takes place, such as in large doses from a chemical spill, burning of the mucous membranes may occur. This irritation can cause the nasal passages to become runny in a way that is similar to allergies. In addition, a sore throat can also develop with inhalation of isopropyl alcohol.

Difficulty Breathing

The fumes from isopropyl alcohol can also cause difficulty with breathing. This can be especially dangerous if you already suffers from a breathing condition, such as asthma. In addition, coughing can occur and can also make it difficult for you to catch your breath. If breathing is impaired for an extended period of time and there is trouble getting enough oxygen into the bloodstream, you can become dizzy and even lose consciousness and require resuscitation. According to Oklahoma University, if a person experiences breathing problems, the individual should be immediately removed and placed into fresh air. If the person's breathing is still impeded, then call 911 immediately.

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