What is nicotine poisoning?
Nicotine, found naturally in tobacco plants, is the chemical responsible for the addictive nature of cigarettes, cigars, and many e-cigarettes. All nicotine is addictive, while high levels of nicotine can not only create a stronger addiction but also cause your body to overdose on the drug. The overdose use of nicotine may lead to toxic results to your body, nicotine poisoning or “nic-sick”.
According to Wikipedia, Nicotine poisoning describes the symptoms of the toxic effects of nicotine following ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact. Nicotine poisoning can potentially be deadly, though serious or fatal overdoses are rare. Historically, most cases of nicotine poisoning have been the result of use of nicotine as an insecticide. However, as the rapid development of vape markets, there are more and more nicotine poisoning or nic-sick cases appeared because of overdose use of e-cigarettes or misuse of e-liquid.
Standard textbooks, databases, and safety sheets consistently state that the lethal dose of nicotine for adults is 60mg or less(30–60mg), but there is overwhelming data indicating that more than 0.5g(500mg) of oral nicotine is required to kill an adult. Children may become ill following ingestion of one cigarette; ingestion of more than this may cause a child to become severely ill. The nicotine in the e-liquid of an e-cigarette can be hazardous to infants and children, through accidental ingestion or skin contact. And this is one of the most supportive evidences to protect minors and expectant mothers from ingesting nicotine.
It’s worth noting that there are various factors that may lead to nicotine poisoning. The most common factor is overdose use of nicotine related products for those inexperienced users; In some cases children have become poisoned by topical medicinal creams which contain nicotine; People who harvest or cultivate tobacco may experience Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS), a type of nicotine poisoning caused by skin contact with wet tobacco leaves. This occurs most commonly in young, inexperienced tobacco harvesters who do not consume tobacco.
What are the symptoms of nicotine poisoning?
Nicotine poisoning or nic-sick usually happens in two stages. Symptoms typically last an hour or two after a mild overdose and up to 24 hours for severe poisoning. In the first 15 minutes to 1 hour, you may feel the following symptoms caused by nicotine poisoning:
- Feel like vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Eye irritation
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Rapid breathing
- Tachycardia(increased heart rate)
- Elevated blood pressure
Within 30 minutes to up to 4 hours later, symptoms shift and include:
- Shallow breathing
- Slower heartbeat and blood pressure
- Extreme fatigue
- Weakness, slow reflexes, or unable to control muscles
- Pale skin
America Lung Association said that: “You will need to go to a hospital if your symptoms progress to include seizures, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, breathing difficulties or even coma. Additionally, if any of your symptoms suggest that you may be suffering from a pulmonary-related illness linked to vaping, you should contact your doctor immediately.”
Ingesting liquid nicotine can be rather dangerous even fatal. As mentioned above, standard textbooks, databases, and safety sheets consistently state that the lethal dose of nicotine for adults is 60mg or less(30–60mg), but there is overwhelming data indicating that more than 0.5g(500mg) of oral nicotine is required to kill an adult. This is why all the vape juice containers are children&pets-proof designed.
Solution and prevention
Treatment for nicotine poisoning depends on the severity and amount of exposure. Mild nicotine poisoning often disappears after cease ingesting nicotine products in couple of hours. However when it comes to a severe case, it generally requires treatment at the hospital.
For example, a doctor may provide activated charcoal. When ingested, the charcoal binds with the nicotine and exits the body without further absorption in the blood. A ventilator may also be necessary, which helps deliver oxygen if you’ve stopped breathing. The hospital can also provide antidotes to help reverse the effects of the poisonous substance.
Other treatments may be necessary depending on the damage done to the body.
Nicotine poisoning is a serious threat when using tobacco and nicotine products, but there are ways you can help minimize toxicity. The AAPCC recommends the following measures:
- Protect your skin, especially when using liquid nicotine.
- Dispose of all nicotine products properly.
- Store nicotine products properly when not in use.
- Always keep nicotine products away from children.
- Make sure you don’t leave out any containers with tobacco or nicotine residue on them.
Though there are various paths for people who needs nicotine to satisfy their cravings which have almost the same satisfaction but less harm then smoking does, including but not limited to: e-cigarettes, nicotine gum, nicotine pouches, we must realize that misuse or overdose use of nicotine can be dangerous even fatal. Thus we must do our best to prevent the bad things from happening. And I would like to quote Dr. Galiatsatos’s words to end the article: "Given the excessive usage of e-cigarettes, I imagine nic-sickness symptoms will become more prevalent," "This should be on everyone's radar!"