Nicotine Poisioning

Nicotine poisoning means that there are toxic effects of consuming nicotine present in the system as defined by the Cleveland Clinic (2021). It is possible to overdose with nicotine and it can be fatal. Being nic sick is not a condition you should take lightly.

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical substance. Using nicotine speeds up the signals from the brain to the body, it increases the heart rate and the amount of oxygen that the heart consumes.  Nicotine also relaxes, that causes the feeling of well-being. Those two reactions combined give the nicotine user the “high”. Nicotine also has negative effects on the health and it is highly recommended to stop using any nicotine products.

Nicotine poisoning is caused by the system (body) not being able to handle all the nicotine consumed. Basically, it means that when you have nicotine poisoning you have consumed more nicotine than your body can handle. How much nicotine causes the poisoning is dependent on the person’s weight, underlying health conditions, metabolism, tolerance and hydration levels.

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning are dependent on the severity of the poisoning. The first symptom of nicotine poisoning is usually vomiting. Other symptoms of nicotine poisoning are: nausea, increased saliva, sweating, paleness, rapid breathing, tremors, headaches, dizziness, increased blood pressure and so on.

Nicotine poisoning can be diagnosed by a urine or blood test. The treatment in the hospital for nicotine poisoning is usually activated charcoal for reducing absorption of nicotine into intestines. Other treatment courses depend on the person’s symptoms and medical history. In case of mild nicotine poisoning a person can lower their own nicotine levels by drinking water, eating foods rich in antioxidants, and exercising. Nicotine overdose is a serious matter and you should contact the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

What is Nicotine Poisoning?

Nicotine poisoning is the result of having too much nicotine in your body and it refers to the toxic effects of consuming nicotine as defined by the Cleveland Clinic. 

Nicotine poisoning is a growing modern problem. Years ago, nicotine poisoning only happened because of pesticides. Today we consume a lot of nicotine products that contain liquid nicotine (e-cigarettes), this way we get more nicotine into our system than through smoking a regular tobacco product. Modern ways of consuming nicotine(e-cigarettes) are raising the numbers of nicotine poisonings. According to the American Association for Poison Control numbers of nicotine poisoning have grown hundreds of times – in 2010 there were about 12 nicotine poisonings per year, in 2022 the number was close to 6800. 

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning are: nausea, vomiting, pale skin color, sweating, rapid and heavy breathing, raise of heart rate and blood pressure, tremors, headaches, and seizures.

Nicotine poisoning can affect anybody but it is the biggest threat for children due to their small size and weight. When it happens to be a child who might have nicotine poisoning you must immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

What is the other term for Nicotine Poisoning?

The other term for nicotine poisoning is nicotine overdose. It means that when you have nicotine poisoning then you have consumed too much nicotine for your body to handle. How much nicotine your body can process without harmful side effects depends on your weight, metabolism, underlying health conditions and hydration levels. In local slang nicotine poisoning is often called being Nic-sick.

How does Nicotine Poisoning affect the body?

Nicotine poisoning affects the body by raising your blood pressure, heart rate and stopping the oxygen flow to the cells. That means that nicotine poisoning affects your central, nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. The effect on the digestive system will be noticeable but not as dangerous. If severe nicotine poisoning is not treated then it can be fatal or lead to lifelong consequences.

Nicotine poisoning affects the body in 15 minutes, usually the first phase is vomiting. The next phase happens in 30 to 60 minutes. Nicotine poisoning affects the body for up to 48 hours. If you have had serious nicotine poisoning then the effect on your body (breathing problems, issues that have occurred due to the lack of oxygen) can last until you die.

The effects on your body include: headache, stomachache, dizziness, vertigo, loss of appetite, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Overall, you can say that being nicotine sick is an extremely unpleasant experience and you should take precautions so it would not happen to you or people around you.

Where can Nicotine be found?

Nicotine can be found in:

  • Tobacco products: cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and tobacco leaves.
  • E-cigarettes
  • Nicotine pouches
  • Nicotine gums
  • Nicotine lozenges
  • Nicotine patches
  • Nicotine sprays
  • Nicotine inhalers
  • Snus
  • Pesticides
  • Insecticides
  • Coffee (chewing coffee beans will only deliver noticeable amounts)
  • Some other foods: chocolate, tea, potatoes, cauliflower, aubergine, tomatoes, green peppers (minuscule amounts).

Nicotine poisoning is caused by more nicotine being in your body than your body can handle without harmful side-effects. The most common cause for nicotine poisoning is e-cigarette, due to the higher concentration of nicotine in e-liquids than in normal tobacco products. 

1. Cigarettes

Cigarettes are rolls of tobacco wrapped in paper or in a substance that does not contain tobacco.

Cigarettes are used by inhaling the burning tobacco smoke. With that smoke you inhale nicotine that gets into your system through the respiratory system. That creates the nicotine “high”. 

Cigarettes contain 6 – 28 mg of nicotine. You inhale about 1- 3 mg of nicotine per cigarette.

Nicotine poisoning from smoking cigarettes is not likely due to the low amount of nicotine you actually consume into your system. Nicotine poisoning from cigarettes can happen if you smoke cigarettes without taking a break between them. The most common nicotine poisoning that happens due to cigarettes is – young children eating cigarettes. 

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body.

Read more about Cigarettes.

2. Pipe Tobacco

Pipe tobacco is any tobacco that is suitable for smoking through a pipe. 

Pipe Tobacco used by puffing slowly (not inhaling) the burning tobacco smoke from the pipe. With that smoke you breathe in nicotine that gets into your system through the respiratory system. That creates the nicotine “high”. 

Pipe tobacco contains 10 – 80 mg of nicotine per gram. You inhale about 0.5- 2 mg of nicotine per pipe.

Nicotine poisoning from puffing pipe tobacco is not likely due to the low amount of nicotine you actually consume into your system. Nicotine poisoning from pipe tobacco can happen if you puff pipe tobacco without taking a break between them. The most common nicotine poisoning that happens due to pipe tobacco s is – young children eating the tobacco. 

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body.

Read more about Pipe Tobacco.

3. Nicotine gum

Nicotine gum is chewing gum containing nicotine that is used to quit smoking.

Nicotine gum is used by the chew and park technique, it is not meant to be chewed constantly. You chew the nicotine gum until you feel the tingling then you park it between the lip and the gum until the tingling fades. After that you repeat the process until the tingling feeling has disappeared. After you finish using the nicotine gum, dispose of it in a designated trash bin.  Nicotine gum enters your system through the lining of the mouth.

Nicotine gum contains 2 or 4 mg of nicotine per gum. 

Nicotine poisoning due to nicotine gum is not likely to happen for an adult because the nicotine content levels are low. But it can happen when you consume other nicotine products with nicotine gum or do not take breaks between gums. It is more likely that nicotine gum nicotine (Nicorette) poisoning happens to a child who accidentally eats it. 

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body.

Read more about Nicotine Gum.

4. Chewing Tobacco

Chewing tobacco is a type of smokeless tobacco made from cured tobacco leaves.

Chewing tobacco is used in two different ways: the first way is by chewing it, and the second way is by placing it between the cheek and lower gum to draw out its flavor.

Chewing tobacco contains 88 mg of nicotine per can. The absorption from the chewing tobacco is around 4-6 mg. 

Nicotine poisoning from chewing tobacco among adults rarely happens. It is more likely to happen that a child gets nicotine poisoning from chewing tobacco because they accidentally ate it.

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body.

Read more about Chewing Tobacco.

5. Nicotine Patches

Nicotine patch is a patch that sticks on the skin and contains a small dose of nicotine. 

Nicotine from the nicotine patch absorbs through the skin and then enters the blood. Then it delivers the nicotine “high”.

Nicotine patch contains 5 – 22 mg of nicotine. 

Nicotine poisoning from using nicotine patches rarely happens among adults but it is more likely to happen that a child gets nicotine poisoning from eating or touching the nicotine patch. Nicotine poisoning from nicotine patches can happen if you use other nicotine products simultaneously or use several nicotine patches at the same time.

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body. But nicotine from nicotine patches can bring out a skin rash that other nicotine products do not do, due to its deliverance method. 

Read more about Nicotine Patches.

6. E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that have the shape of a cigarette, cigar, or pen and do not contain tobacco, they use a battery and a solution of nicotine. E-cigarettes do not produce any burnt tobacco or smoke.

E-cigarettes are used by inhaling the vapor that comes from the device, it is meant to be done slower than normal smoking.  With that vapor you inhale nicotine that gets into your system through the respiratory system. That creates the nicotine “high”. 

E-cigarettes contain 0 – 60 mg of nicotine per ml. 

Nicotine poisoning from smoking e-cigarettes is the likeliest reason for nicotine poisoning due to liquids high concentration of nicotine. Most of the people who have gotten nicotine poisoning from e-cigarettes are kids who have accidentally drank the liquid, got it on their skin or have smoked it (teenagers). 

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body. But when the poisoning is caused by the nicotine getting on your skin (e-liquid) then it can cause some rash or damage to the skin. 

Read more about E-Cigarettes.

7. Tobacco Leaves

Tobacco leaves are tobacco plant leaves that contain nicotine.

Tobacco leaves are usually consumed after drying in the shape of cigarettes but in other forms as well.

Tobacco leaves contain 0.3 – 7 percent of nicotine.

Nicotine poisoning from tobacco leaves in their natural form among adults rarely happens. It is more likely to happen that a child gets nicotine poisoning from tobacco leaf products because they accidentally ate it.

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body.

Read more about Tobacco Leaves.

8. Liquid Nicotine

Liquid nicotine is any liquid that contains nicotine according to Law Insider.

Liquid nicotine is used for producing nicotine products and their refilling. 

Nicotine content in liquid nicotine can be 0 – 95 %. 

Nicotine poisoning from liquid nicotine is the most likely type of nicotine poisoning. Most nicotine poisonings happen with young children because they have accidentally consumed liquid nicotine or they have had contact with it through skin. Liquid nicotine is also causing a lot of mild nicotine poisoning cases among e-cigarette users. 

“Expanded definition

How much nicotine does it contain

How it works

Do each X have different symptoms?

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body. But when the poisoning is caused by the nicotine getting on your skin (e-liquid) then it can cause some rash or damage to the skin.

Read more about Liquid Nicotine.

9. Nicotine Lozenges

Nicotine lozenges are hard candy-like tablets that contain small doses of nicotine that are used as a substitute for the active ingredient in tobacco.

Nicotine from the lozenge gets into your system through the mouth lining and saliva while you suck it (do not swallow). Then it delivers the nicotine “high”.

Nicotine patch contains 5 – 22 mg of nicotine. 

Nicotine poisoning from using nicotine patches rarely happens among adults but it is more likely to happen that a child gets nicotine poisoning from eating or touching the nicotine patch. Nicotine poisoning from nicotine patches can happen if you use other nicotine products simultaneously or use several nicotine patches at the same time.

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning from different nicotine products are similar and depend on your body. But nicotine from nicotine patches can bring out a skin rash that other nicotine products do not do, due to its deliverance method. 

Read more about Nicotine Lozenges.

10. Some Pesticides

Pesticide is a poison meant for poisoning pests, in this case it contains nicotine. 

It works by being poisonous to some insect pests and killing them. It is sprayed on the area where pests are located. It is poisonous to humans as well.

It contains 25 – 90 % of nicotine.

Pesticides are dangerous to humans and should be worked with according to instructions. Pesticides can be inhaled or get on the skin. Pesticide poisoning is dealt with according to symptoms. Since pesticides can include other dangerous chemicals then their poisoning can have completely different symptoms to nicotine poisoning. 

How much Nicotine does it take to cause Nicotine Poisoning?

Nicotine poisoning is caused by consuming more than 0.22 mg/lb. for a 160-pound adult per day. The lethal dose of nicotine to humans of 40-60 mg as stated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in 154-pound adults (70- kg). The lethal dose of inhaled nicotine is 50 to 60 mg in a 70-kg adult (154 pounds) according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Consuming 1 – 2 mg of nicotine has shown signs of poisoning in young children. The exact amount of nicotine that causes poisoning depends on the person’s weight, metabolism, hydration level and underlying health conditions (cardiovascular issues). If there is a possibility of nicotine poisoning of a person then you must immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

How long does Nicotine stay in the body?

Nicotine stays in the body for 1 to 3 days after you have stopped using nicotine products as stated by the WebMD. Nicotine is not detectable in your urine after 3 to 4 days of stopping the usage of nicotine products. You can reduce your nicotine levels quicker by: drinking water, exercising, eating foods rich in antioxidants, stop consuming nicotine products, and reduce nicotine intake. If there is a possibility of nicotine poisoning of a person then you must immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

What Nicotine Product contains the most Nicotine?

E-cigarettes contain the most nicotine (highest nicotine concentration) out of the nicotine products that are meant for consuming by humans as stated by the Cleveland Clinic. Insecticides can have a higher content of nicotine but they are meant for killing insects and not for consumption by humans. If there is a possibility of nicotine poisoning of a person then you must immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

What are the Symptoms of Nicotine Poisoning?

The symptoms of nicotine poisoning are:

  1. The short-term (first phase) effects of nicotine poisoning:
  • Nausea and vomiting: Nausea is a feeling of sickness with an inclination to vomit. Vomiting is ejecting matter from the stomach through the mouth.
  • Increased salivation: Means excessive saliva flow.
  • Abdominal pain: Abdominal pain is a pain that you feel anywhere between your chest and groin. 
  • Pale skin color: It is an unusual lightness of skin color compared with your normal complexion.
  • Sweating: It means to exude sweat.
  • Increased blood pressure: It means that the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high. The number of increased blood pressure depends on your normal blood pressure.
  • Increased heart rate: It means your heart rate is over 100 beats a minute.
  • Rapid, heavy breathing (hyperpnea): It means taking deeper breaths than usual, which increases the volume of air in the lungs.
  • Loss of full control of body movements (ataxia), loss of balance, difficulty walking: slurred speech, eye movement abnormalities, lack of coordination. 
  • Tremors: Tremor is a neurological disorder that causes shaking movements in one or more parts of your body, most often in your hands.
  • Headache, dizziness: Headache is a continuous pain in the head. Dizziness is a sensation of spinning around and losing one’s balance.
  • Muscle twitching: It refers to sudden, brief involuntary twitching or jerking of a muscle or group of muscles. The twitching cannot be stopped or controlled by the person experiencing it.
  • Seizures: They mean sudden, uncontrolled body movements and changes in behavior that occur because of abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
  1. The long-term (second phase) effects of nicotine poisoning:
  • Diarrhea: It is a condition in which feces are discharged from the bowels frequently and in a liquid form.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension) and slow heart rate (bradycardia): It means that the blood pressure is much lower than normal. That means the heart, brain, and other parts of the body do not get enough blood. Normal blood pressure is between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg. Slow heart rate means that your heart beats more slowly than expected, under 60 beats per minute.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms: That means that there is an abnormality of the heart’s rhythm. It may beat too slowly, too quickly, or irregularly. These abnormalities can be a minor inconvenience or discomfort or a potentially fatal problem.
  • Shock: It is an acute medical condition associated with a fall in blood pressure, caused by such events as loss of blood, severe burns, allergic reaction, or sudden emotional stress, and marked by cold, pallid skin, irregular breathing, rapid pulse, and dilated pupils.
  • Coma: It is a prolonged state of deep unconsciousness, caused especially by severe injury or illness.
  • Muscle weakness/paralysis: Muscle weakness is a reduction in muscle strength with a limited range of voluntary movement. Paralysis is a complete inability to perform any movement.
  • Shallow breathing, difficulty breathing, respiratory failure: This means your respiratory system is not functioning properly.

If there is a possibility of nicotine poisoning of a person then you must immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

How long does Nicotine Poisoning last?

Nicotine poisoning lasts between one hour to 48 hours depending on the level of nicotine poisoning. Mild nicotine poisoning lasts 1 – 2 hours. Severe nicotine poisoning lasts 24 – 48 hours. Severe nicotine poisoning can lead to death, and be fatal. To sum it all up, how long does being nic sick last depends on your nicotine intake and tolerance to it (1 – 48 hours).  If there is a possibility of nicotine poisoning of a person (especially if it is a child) then you must immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

Are there any long-term effects of nicotine poisoning?

Yes, there are long-term effects of nicotine poisoning. The long-term effects of nicotine poisoning are ongoing seizures or respiratory failure or other problems because of the damage done from low oxygen levels during the nicotine overdose as stated by the Cleveland Clinic (2021). 

What health risk is associated with Nicotine Poisoning?

The health risks that are associated with nicotine poisoning are death, central and nervous issues, problems with respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems as stated by the Cleveland Clinic (2021). The health problems can be temporary or permanent depending on the severity of the nicotine poisoning. If there is doubt of nicotine poisoning contact the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

How is Nicotine Poisoning diagnosed?

Nicotine poisoning is diagnosed by blood or urine test- there will be increased levels of nicotine or cotinine (nicotine metabolite). Self-diagnosing nicotine poisoning is (in a mild case) possible- think of your past nicotine consumption and see if you have the symptoms of nicotine poisoning. Then try lowering your nicotine levels by drinking water, eating foods rich in antioxidants and exercise. If those help to get rid of the symptoms then it is highly likely you had a mild nicotine poisoning. In every case it is recommended to contact the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

What is the Treatment for Nicotine Poisoning?

The treatment for nicotine poisoning (nic sick cure) is activated charcoal for reducing absorption of nicotine in your intestines, that treatment happens in hospitals. Other treatments are meant to treat specific symptoms. Benzodiazepines are administered to control seizures. Intravenous fluids (IV) fluids are used to treat low blood pressure. Atropine is used to treat slow heart rate. Ventilator is used to help deliver oxygen if there is respiratory failure. Other treatments are dependent on the individual’s medical history and symptoms. 

The treatment of severe nicotine poisoning at home setting is making the person vomit, and checking that the person breathes. No liquids or food should be given to the person with nicotine poisoning. Then you must immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

The treatments of mild nicotine poisoning, getting rid of nic sick, at home are drinking water, eating foods rich in antioxidants, and exercising.

How long does it take to withdraw Nicotine in the body?

It takes 1 to 3 days to withdraw nicotine in the body after you have stopped using nicotine products as stated by the WebMD. Nicotine is not detectable in your urine after 3 to 4 days .You can withdraw nicotine in the body quicker by: drinking water, exercising, eating foods rich in antioxidants, stop consuming nicotine products, and reduce nicotine intake. 

Read more about What is Nicotine.

What is the first aid for Nicotine Poisoning?

The first aid of nicotine poisoning is making the person vomit and not giving any food or water. Then you immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

In case of a mild nicotine poisoning the first aid for it would be to drink water, eat food rich in antioxidants, and exercise. It is possible to get rid of nic sick at home if it is a case of mild poisoning.

If you are not sure how severe the poisoning is or if your underlying health conditions make it dangerous- then you should contact the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

Can Nicotine Poisoning be fatal?

Yes, nicotine poisoning can be fatal. When you consume more nicotine than your body can manage safely then nicotine poisoning can be lethal. The fatal dose of nicotine to humans of 40-60 mg as stated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in 154-pound adults (70- kg). The fatal dose of inhaled nicotine is 50 to 60 mg in a 70-kg adult (154 pounds) according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The fatal dose for children is smaller due to their weaker tolerance to nicotine.

Can second-hand smoke cause Nicotine Poisoning?

Yes, second-hand smoke can cause nicotine poisoning. Because while you smoke second-hand you still consume nicotine, although in smaller amounts than the actual smoker. The severity of nicotine poisoning in case of second-hand smoke depends on the nicotine content in the smoke and on the second hand smoker’s weight, tolerance, metabolism, underlying health conditions, and hydration levels. If there is a possibility of nicotine poisoning of a person (especially if it is a child) then you must immediately phone the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 and follow their instructions.

Is Nicotine Poisoning More Common in children or adults?

Nicotine poisoning is more common among children than in adults. Children need smaller amounts of nicotine for the nicotine poisoning to occur. The main causes for nicotine poisoning among children are: eating cigarettes and consuming liquid nicotine — either from absorbing spilled nicotine through their skin or through the mucous membrane in their mouth or from swallowing liquid nicotine. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reports that more than half of the Center’s cases of nicotine poisoning in 2014 happened with children younger than 6 years. 

How can you prevent Nicotine Poisoning?

You can prevent nicotine poisoning by lessening your nicotine intake, stop consuming nicotine, avoiding second-hand smoking and keeping nicotine products out of reach for children. Since nicotine poisoning is happening more and more often and has long-term effects then it is important as an adult to not only take responsibility for the storage of your own nicotine products but to step in every time when there might be a threat for a child. If you see that some child (1-9 years) is reaching for an e-cigarette to play with you, take action so the child could not play with it. In addition, if you see underage nicotine consumers you will make them aware of the threats and stop the nicotine consumption if it is possible. Also disposing of nicotine products in a designated way is important so children or animals could not get them and by that accidentally causing nicotine poisoning to themselves.

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