Menthol overdose

This poisoning is from an overdose of menthol.

Poisonous Ingredient 

Where Found 

  • In peppermint oil  
  • As a flavoring agent (candy, gum, cigarettes, cough drops, and so on)  
  • In some cold sore medications  
  • In some ointments to treat aches and pains (Ben-Gay, Therapeutic Mineral Ice)  
  • As an inhalant, lozenge, or ointment to treat Nasal congestion  
  • In liniments to relieve pain and itching  
  • In some medications to treat sore mouth/throat/gums  
  • In some mouthwashes

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


  • Body as a whole       o Blood in the urine       o No urine output  
  • Respiratory       o Shallow breathing       o May also be rapid  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Abdominal pain       o diarrhea       o nausea, Vomiting  
  • Heart and blood vessels       o Rapid heartbeat  
  • Nervous system       o Unconsciousness       o Dizziness       o Convulsions

Home Treatment 
If the menthol is in ointment/cream form, wipe away any that remains on the skin’s surface. Call Poison Control for further guidance. If any ingestion or toxic exposure is suspected, seek emergency medical care immediately.

Before Calling Emergency 
Determine the following:

  • The patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)  
  • The time it was swallowed  
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 
See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Take the container with you to the emergency room.

What to expect at the emergency room 
Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • For swallowed poison       o Placement of a tube down the nose and into the stomach (a nasogastric tube, or an NG tube) to wash out the stomach       o Activated charcoal administration       o Endoscopy - the placement of a camera down the throat to see the extent of burns to the esophagus and the stomach       o Give IV fluids       o Admission to the hospital.       o Give an antidote       o Treat the symptoms  
  • For skin exposure       o Irrigation (washing of the skin), perhaps every few hours for several days       o Skin debridement (surgical removal of burned skin)       o Admission or transfer to a hospital that specializes in burn care

Expectations (prognosis) 
The extent of toxicity depends on the amount of exposure and time to treatment. Survival past 48 hours is usually a good sign that recovery will occur.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by David A. Scott, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.