Nicotine is a chemical found in tobacco leaves, some medications, and products to help people stop smoking. Nicotine poisoning is the result of ingesting too much nicotine into the body. Some of the symptoms of this condition include agitation, convulsions, and vomiting. Regular use of tobacco products or products to stop smoking will probably not result in poisoning, as it usually takes larger amounts of the chemical to cause poisoning. People with nicotine poisoning often can be successfully treated with help from a poison control center, but in other cases a visit to a doctor or emergency room may be in order, as this condition can be fatal if left untreated.
A person who has been poisoned with nicotine might become nauseated and may drool or sweat. Other early symptoms of nicotine poisoning may include headaches and stomach cramps. If exposure continues, more serious symptoms such as vomiting and trouble breathing could occur. Eventually, if acute nicotine poisoning develops, it could cause seizures, fainting, coma or even death in some cases. Most of the time, a person can recover with no lasting effects, but prompt medical attention is usually a good idea.
Since it may take less nicotine to poison a child than an adult, children are more likely to be poisoned if they accidentally ingest items that contain nicotine. Many cases of poisoning result from children eating nicotine gum or chewing on patches. Children can also be poisoned if they get into and eat medications that have nicotine as an ingredient. Workers who process tobacco plants can sometimes be poisoned from being in contact with the wet leaves of the plant as well.
Medical assistance is usually needed for cases of nicotine poisoning. If poisoning is suspected, contacting a poison control center may help. In most cases, inducing vomiting is not recommended without first consulting a medical professional. If the person absorbed nicotine through the skin, it may help to wash the area for 15 minutes with soap and water.
Sometimes a person may need to see a doctor to confirm that nicotine poisoning is causing the problems. A doctor may order blood and urine tests to see if nicotine is present in the body. Doctors then can administer necessary treatment, such as a gastric lavage, which is a procedure that cleans out the stomach. Activated charcoal may also be used for treatment.