Mustard Poisoning

What is mustard poisoning?

Mustard poisoning happens when you are exposed to a harmful chemical called mustard gas. The chemical smells like garlic or onions. It comes in a liquid or an aerosol. An aerosol is a spray with tiny droplets of liquid. Mustard gas is used as a weapon. It may be sprayed onto people, or onto a surface that people will touch. Examples are handrails, handles, plants, and soil.

What are the signs and symptoms of mustard poisoning?

Signs and symptoms may begin 4 to 8 hours after you are exposed:

  • Red, burning, or itching skin

  • Blisters

  • Burning or red eyes

  • Sneezing, runny nose, or nosebleeds

  • Sore throat, hoarseness, or coughing

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain

  • Burning in your lungs, or trouble breathing

How is mustard poisoning treated?

Small blisters may be left alone. Caregivers may open and clean larger blisters. You may also need any of the following:

  • Cool mist humidifier: This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.

  • Eye drops or ointment: This may help decrease inflammation and help your eyes heal. It may also help to keep your eyelids from sticking together.

  • Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen if you have difficulty breathing.

  • Ventilator: You may need a machine to help you breathe if you inhaled a large amount of the chemical.

What should I do if I am exposed to mustard gas?

  • Head to a higher area: Climb to the top floor of a building, or go to the top of a hill. Mustard gas is heavier than air and will settle in low-lying areas, such as ditches and basements.

  • Hold your breath and head to a safer spot: Try to hold your breath without breathing in first. Hold your breath until you can get to a safer spot. If you are outside, go inside. Close all the doors and windows. Shut off heating or air conditioning to keep outside air from coming in.

  • Wash your skin, hair, and eyes: Wash your hands before you touch your eyes. It is important to wash the chemical off your skin right away. Remove your clothes and place them into a plastic bag. Shower as soon as possible to wash the chemical off your skin. Use soap if it is available. Gently rinse your skin. Do not scrub your skin. If the chemical got into your eyes, run water into your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes. Put on clean clothes and shoes.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You think you have been exposed to mustard gas. Do not wait for signs and symptoms to appear.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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