What to Do if You Accidentally Drink Kerosene
When I was a toddler I accidentally drank kerosene.
In Jamaica, especially in the countryside, water is always an issue—especially in the warmer months when there is no rain. People store water in containers we call jugs, but they are in fact bottles.
It is not common for people to label containers, and children often don't know the difference. Kerosene used to be stored under the kitchen sink. Of course it has its own colour, a pale yellowish hue, and it smells. But usually it doesn't smell until you actually pour it. If you have an uncovered container of kerosene sitting still in a corner and it is untouched, you will not really smell it until someone upsets it. Here is the dilemma. If a child is thirsty and an adult is not around, the child might be inclined to drink the kerosene by drinking directly from the container.
During the 1970s and 1980s, many children were becoming ill from drinking kerosene, so the government requested a coloured kerosene be sold instead. So we got an aqua coloured kerosene, but it was phased out after a while. We now have a slightly yellow kerosene, and the smell is more awful than ever.
How It Happened
I was about three years old. My mother was at work, and I was left with a babysitter. Now to tell the truth I don't remember if it was my brother or my sister who was the babysitter at the time, so I will just refer to the person as "the babysitter."
In those days, kerosene was very popular in Jamaica because everyone had lamps and stoves that burned this fuel. I believe the kerosene was stored under the sink in the kitchen in a plastic gallon bottle similar to those we would fetch water in.
I don't remember pouring the kerosene, it but I do remember the taste of it in my mouth and the stench of it. Every time I smell the liquid now the memory of that awful taste and a very strong sense of deja vu overtake me. I feel sick to my stomach and feel as though I need to vomit.
After drinking the kerosene as a toddler, I became sick to my stomach and someone realized what had happened. I was taken to the hospital and my stomach was pumped. I was released with medication, or so I was told, but the most vivid memory I have is that I was given a tea of kola nut to drink. In Jamaica we call the kola nut "bissy." It is a powerful antidote and was used in those days to counter poison.
I was later told that I had been thirsty—and being the Little Miss Independent that I was I had wanted to fetch the water myself. So I took my cup and poured the kerosene in. I had just about a cup of the awful stuff. The cup was a toddler-sized, so it can't have been more than four ounces. Apparently the bottle was not full either, since I was able to lift it and pour.
Can Kerosene kill?
Yes it can!
Kerosene can cause death up to a month after consumption depending on the quantity swallowed.
Here are the effects of kerosene in humans:
- Inhalation: Damage to the airways and lungs which leads to breathing difficulties. The throat may also get swollen.
- Eyes: Kerosene can cause blindness and it certainly can cause pain in the eyes.
- If swallowed: Abdominal pain, may vomit blood and have bloody stool
- If absorbed into the blood stream can lower the blood pressure very rapidly which can damage the heart.
- Drinking Kerosene can damage the nervous system too. People will feel drowsy, depressed, headaches, feel drunk, weak, dizzy and staggering.
- Kerosene can burn the skin and cause irritation.
What to do if you accidentally drink kerosene?
- Get to the emergency immediately! Call 911 or have someone take you to the hospital. Do not try to vomit or drink water.
- Flush eyes with water if kerosene got into eye
- Wash area on skin where kerosene came in contact
- Get to a hospital if you feel dizzy or lightheaded after inhaling fumes.
Kerosene is a dangerous product that should be stored properly and away from the reach of children. My mom certainly learned her lesson and has been careful ever since.
Chemicals like kerosene and gasoline should not be stored inside the house because not only are they dangerous if inhaled or consumed but very flammable and ignites at the smallest spark.
If you live in a country where Kerosene is sold at the corner shop in unmarked containers, label your container properly. Store it in a safe place where a child cannot reach or get to it.
I am alive today but it could have been fatal. Yes, consuming kerosene can kill, a slow painful death. Don't mean to scare you but it is the truth.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Carolee Samuda