November 16, 2020

Poison Center issues warning about liquid nicotine poisonings

As vaping increases in popularity among adults and teenagers, so does liquid nicotine poisoning among young children. Each year, poison control centers in the United States receive thousands of calls about young children who have been exposed to vaping-related products. To protect children from liquid nicotine poisoning, experts urge safe handling and home storage of such products.

It takes as little as a sip of liquid nicotine for a young child to get into trouble. This small amount can cause vomiting, rapid heart rate, seizures, breathing difficulty and even death. More than 99% of the liquids used in vapes (also called e-cigs, vape pens and hookah pens) contain nicotine as well as hundreds of other chemicals. The liquid is commonly sweetened and the bottles are decorated with bright colors and images like fruit and desserts, making them especially attractive to young children. It is critical to keep vaping-related products out of the sight and reach of children to prevent poisoning and a trip to the emergency room.

The Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, a member of Prevent Child Injury, is participating in activities for the next several weeks to teach families how to prevent these common and serious poison exposures.

“While nicotine exposures of any kind can cause poisonings, liquid nicotine is especially worrisome because the concentration of nicotine in these products is typically much higher than in tobacco products,” said Varun Vohra, academic/managing director of the Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Nicotine poisoning is a serious threat. Children can be particularly susceptible due to their size and it only takes small amounts of liquid nicotine to cause significant toxicity. There are several ways to minimize and prevent the potential for serious toxicity from these products.”

To safely store and dispose of liquid nicotine, follow these tips:

Up, away and out of sight. Keep vaping products, including pens, e-cigarettes, pods and liquids, in a place that is too high for children to reach or see, preferably in a locked cabinet.

Refill alone. Refill e-cigarette cartridges when children are not around, and put liquid nicotine away immediately after every use.

Clean up right away. Immediately clean up any spills with paper towels. Bag them and place them into a trash container that a child cannot access.

Get rid of unused liquid nicotine. Follow the recommendations on the label for safe disposal. If there are no instructions, pour the unused liquid into a bag of kitty litter or coffee grounds. Put empty containers, paper towels and other used supplies into the bag. Tie the bag tightly and dispose of in a trash container that a child cannot access.

Call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222. Post this number in a visible place and save it in your cell phone. Call right away if you think a child has come in contact with liquid nicotine.
More prevention tips are available at

Prevent Child Injury is a national group of organizations and individuals, including researchers, health professionals, educators and child advocates, working together to prevent injuries to children and adolescents in the U.S. In collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevent Child Injury promotes coordinated communication to the public about prevention of child injury, the leading cause of death of our nation’s youth. To become a member of Prevent Child Injury or for more information and resources on this and other child injury topics, visit

The Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine is a non-profit organization whose mission is to prevent poisonings, reduce severity of toxic exposures, educate caregivers and professionals, and promote poison prevention by providing high-quality toxicological expertise. Physicians, pharmacists, poison center specialists and educators with the center are principle information resources available to Michigan residents and health care professionals for poisonings and toxin-related emergencies.

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