Incense is a product that creates a smell when it is burned. Incense poisoning can occur when someone sniffs or swallows liquid incense. This can be by accident or on purpose. Solid incense is not considered poisonous.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
The ingredients in incense that can be harmful are:
Liquid incense is sold on the internet under a variety of brand names. It is usually described as a room deodorizer, despite being sold for other purposes. Liquid incense that is breathed in (inhaled) is called a "popper."
Below are symptoms of incense poisoning in different parts of the body.
EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
HEART AND BLOOD
Seek medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to. If the incense is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the person swallowed liquid incense, give them water or milk right away, unless a provider tells you not to. DO NOT give anything to drink if the person has symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include:
Have this information ready:
Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. 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 incense with you to the hospital, if possible.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.
The person may receive:
How well someone does depends on how much incense they swallowed and how quickly they receive treatment. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.
Abusing liquid incense is as dangerous as taking other illicit drugs, and it may cause death.
Maypole J, Woolf AD. Essential oils. 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 101.
Mycyk MB. Hallucinogens and drugs of abuse. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 150.