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Camphor overdose

Camphor is a white substance with a strong odor, commonly associated with Vicks VapoRub. Camphor overdose occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally takes more than the normal or recommended amount of this medication.

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 1-800-222-1222 for a local poison control center.

Poisonous Ingredient

Where Found

  • Camphorated oil
  • Some moth repellents
  • Topical pain relievers
  • Vicks VapoRub

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anxiety
  • Burning of the mouth or the throat
  • Convulsions
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Rigid muscles
  • Skin irritation
  • Slow breathing
  • Somnolence (sleepiness)
  • Thirst
  • Tremors (unintentional trembling)
  • Twitching facial muscles
  • Unconsciousness

Home Care

Seek immediate medical help. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by Poison Control or a health care professional.

Before Calling Emergency

The following information is helpful for emergency assistance:

  • The person's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the product (as well as the ingredients and strength if known)
  • When it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.

Poison Control What to Expect at the Emergency Room

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This 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. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms (such as seizures) will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal (used if other substances were taken along with the camphor, since activated charcoal does not adsorb camphor very well)
  • Airway support, including oxygen, breathing tube through the mouth (intubation),and ventilator (breathing machine)
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through the vein (intravenous or IV)
  • Laxative
  • Medicines to treat symptoms

How well a person does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.


American Association of Poison Control Centers. Practice Guideline: Camphor poisoning: An evidence-based practice guideline for out-of-hospital management. Clinical Toxicology. 2006: Vol. 44;pp. 357-370.

Goldfrank LR, ed. Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2011.

Sue Y-J, Pinkert H. Baby powder, borates and camphor. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ,eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia PA. Elsevier Saunders; 2007;chap

Review Date: 1/19/2015
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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