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How does nicotine poisoning happen?

Until recently, nicotine poisoning was a relatively rare occurrence and was usually connected to insecticides that would contain nicotine. However, due to the increase in the popularity of vaping and e-cigarettes, there has been a recent increase in reported cases of nicotine overdose.



The most common cause of nicotine poisoning in adults occurs from vaping and liquid nicotine, however there is another form of nicotine poisoning which is less common called Green Tobacco Sickness. Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS) is a form of nicotine poisoning which can occur in individuals who harvest tobacco or work in tobacco processing factories.



So, how do you know if you have nicotine poisoning?The main symptoms you can expect to experience are excess saliva, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, eye irritation, headaches, confusion, increased heart rate, anxiety, tremors, dizziness and coughing. These symptoms will usually be the first stage of nicotine poisoning and will occur within 15-60 of overdosing.

After these first stage symptoms, the body will begin to calm down and nicotine’s depressor effects will begin to kick in. The second stage symptoms include fatigue, weakness, slow heart rate, shallow breathing and low blood pressure. In more severe cases, individuals can experience seizures, breathing difficulties and even a coma. These severe cases are possible, however they very rarely occur.

The cause of nicotine overdose is simply an overexposure to nicotine through either ingestion, absorption through the eyes or skin but most commonly through inhalation.



What forms of nicotine are most dangerous?

Adults who start vaping and not used to smoking have a higher risk of getting nicotine poisoning when compared to adults who smoke regularly. If an adult is still smoking but also using a nicotine patch or chewing gum which contains nicotine, they can be at risk of a nicotine overdose.

It is less common that children will suffer from nicotine poisoning, however when they do, it is usually through eating cigarettes or products which contain nicotine. Nicotine from E-Liquids can be particularly dangerous as they are not required to be childproof and the majority of flavours appeal to children.

Third-hand nicotine poisoning can also be a problem for adults, children and even pets. The vapor from e-cigarettes can stick to fabrics and when individuals touch these surfaces it will then transfer to them.



How much nicotine do you have to have for nicotine poisoning to occur?

Nicotine overdose depends on factors such as body weight and where the nicotine has come from.

Research suggests that the lethal dose of nicotine for adults is 50 to 60 mg, therefore there are now safety warnings that state that for cigarettes or 10ml of nicotine this strong could be lethal. Fortunately, the mortality rate from nicotine poisoning is significantly low.

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