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Alternative NamesMoth balls; Moth flakes; Camphor tar
Definition Return to top
Naphthalene is a white solid substance with a strong smell. Poisoning from naphthalene destroys or changes red blood cells so they cannot carry oxygen.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Poisonous Ingredient Return to top
Where Found Return to top
Symptoms Return to top
Stomach problems may occur a day after exposure to the poison. They include:
The patient may also have a fever. Over time, the following additional symptoms may occur:
NOTE: Persons with a condition called glucose-6-phosphate deficiency are more vulnerable to the effects of napthalene.
Before Calling Emergency Return to top
Determine the following information:
Poison Control Return to top
If you suspect possible poisoning, seek emergency medical care immediately.
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to Expect at the Emergency Room Return to top
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate.
Persons who have recently eaten many mothballs will be forced to vomit.
Other treatments may include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
It can take several weeks or longer to recover from some of the poisonous effects.
If the patient has convulsions and coma, the outlook is not good.
References Return to top
Roberts JR, Hedges JR. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2004.
Ford MD. Clinical Toxicology. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2001.Update Date: 2/3/2009 Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (8/9/2007).