Methanol overdose

Poisoning from an overdose of methanol.

Poisonous Ingredient 

Methanol (methyl alcohol, wood alcohol)

Where Found 

  • Antifreeze  
  • Paint remover or thinner  
  • Shellac  
  • Varnish  
  • Canned heating sources  
  • Windshield wiper fluid  
  • De-icing fluid  
  • Glass cleaners

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


  • Weakness  
  • Leg cramps  
  • Convulsions  
  • Breathing difficulty  
  • No breathing  
  • Blurred vision  
  • Blindness  
  • Dilation of the pupils  
  • Bluish-colored lips and fingernails  
  • nausea, Vomiting  
  • Drop in blood pressure  
  • Coma  
  • Fatigue  
  • headache  
  • Dizziness

Home Treatment 

Methanol is highly toxic, and you must seek medical care at your nearest emergency room for any ingestion.


Before Calling Emergency 

Determine the following information:

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

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 
Local emergency or Poison Control personnel will advise you if it is necessary to take the person to the hospital. See poison control centers for the national telephone number. Take any containers with you to the emergency room.

What to expect at the emergency room 

Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • Supporting breathing  
  • Pumping the stomach (gastric lavage)  
  • Giving an antidote (fomepizole or ethanol)  
  • Giving other medications (folinic acid, bicarbonate)  
  • Treating the symptoms  
  • Dialysis

Expectations (prognosis) 
Methanol is extremely toxic. As little as 2 TABLEspoonsful can be fatal to a child, and 2 to 8 oz. can be fatal for an adult. The ultimate outcome depends on how much was swallowed and how soon appropriate care was given.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by Potos A. Aagen, 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.