Q. Please explain the poisonous effect of phenol ingestion.

Answered by
Dr. Muhammad Majid Hanif
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Jun 29, 2017 and last reviewed on: Nov 05, 2021

Hello doctor,

My friend aged 30 had two drops of phenol mistaking for milk. He vomited and had lot of salt water. Please advice for any side effect.



Welcome to icliniq.com.

I want to assure you not to worry as everything is going to be fine if proper care and treatment is opted in for. I have thoroughly gone through your case and can well understand your genuine health concerns.

The Probable causes:

1. No, there is not much problem right now as he vomited and also had a lot of water. It is fine because it was only two drops.
2. We usually do not go for emesis (vomiting) for phenol poisoning cases. Because, it is a volatile compound and causes vapors entering the lungs through the airways.
3. As it was only two drops, I do not think it may cause much trouble. If he feels short of breath contact me back, otherwise fine.

Preventive measures:

1. He should avoid re-exposure.
2. Rule out if there is some sort of suicidal ideation due to depression or anxiety and take him to a psychiatrist for physical evaluation.

Regarding follow up:

For further follow up consult a general practitioner online.---> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/general-practitioner

Hi doctor,

He drank salt water to induce vomit. Was that fine? As per your opinion vomiting is not advised, so should he need any check up with doctor? Will drinking phenol cause any side effects?



Welcome to icliniq.com.

I want to assure you not to worry as everything is going to be fine.

The Probable causes:

Phenol has phenyl+hydroxyl group makes it an acid known Carbolic acid. As other acids, it is also a corrosive acid and is definitely a volatile aromatic organic compound not good for the inner lining of the food pipe.

But we always see the poisoning in terms of the amount of poison ingested. He ingested only two drops and that is very minute to cause major burns that may lead to future scarring or the strictures in the esophagus (the food pipe).

Phenol is also used in medications but in the processed forms and that too sometimes may lead to side effects. So, I would specifically add here the side effects that I see usually in my patients (very less reported ones though):-
1. Sore throat.
2. Fever.
3. Mouth ulcers or simply a rash (inner side or around the mouth).
4. Headache and nausea/vomiting.
5. Difficulty in breathing.
6. Rash or swelling anywhere on body.

So if you see any of the symptoms like that, just let me know for further treatment. Right now he is fine.

No need to visit a doctor for physical evaluation. I would have advised if the volume of ingested phenol was significantly high. Also he tried to dilute it to some extent with plenty of salt water.

As I said earlier, for volatile poisons, we do not preferably go for vomiting. It is because when the volatile substance comes back from stomach to mouth in its way its fumes/vapors get entry into the lungs too. Again I want to make you relax that the volume of only two fluid drops is not so much hazardous in this regard.

Treatment plan:

1. Give Citrucel (Methylcellulose) dietary fiber supplement with plenty of water.
2. Give him syrup Gaviscon before every meal.
3. Ask him to take soft and bland diet for a couple of days.
4. Do assure that he drinks plenty of water.

Preventive measures:

Excessive coughing and constipation.

Regarding follow up:

For further information consult a general practitioner online.---> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/general-practitioner

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