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Incense is a material that creates a smell when it is burned. Incense overdose can occur when someone accidentally or intentionally sniffs or swallows liquid incense. Solid incense is not considered poisonous.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Liquid incense is sold on the Internet under a variety of brand names. It is usually described as a room deodorizer, despite being sold for other purposes. Liquid incense that is breathed in (inhaled) is called a "popper."
Eyes, ears, nose, and throat:
- Blurred vision
- Burning pain in the throat
- Burns to the eye
Heart and blood:
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Coma (decreased level of consciousness and lack of responsiveness)
- Euphoria, a feeling like being drunk (intoxicated)
Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by Poison Control or a health care professional.
If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
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 patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
- Patient's age, weight, and condition
- Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
Poison Control, or a Local Emergency Number
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called 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.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:
Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth into the lungs and a breathing machine (ventilator)
EKG (heart tracing)
- Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
- Fluids through a vein (by IV)
- Medicine (antidote) to reverse the effect of the poison
- Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)
How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance is for recovery.
Abusing liquid incense is as dangerous as taking other illicit drugs, and may result in death.
Maypole J, Woolf AD. Essential oils. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 101.
- Last reviewed on 1/20/2014
- Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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