Methanol Poisoning: Symptoms and Management

Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is a toxic substance that can cause severe health problems, including death if ingested or inhaled in large amounts. This article will discuss the symptoms of methanol poisoning and the appropriate management of this condition.

Metabolism of Methanol

Methanol is metabolized in the liver to formaldehyde by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. Formaldehyde is then further oxidized to formic acid by formaldehyde dehydrogenase. Formic acid can be toxic and cause metabolic acidosis. It is further metabolized to carbon dioxide and water, which are non-toxic and can be eliminated from the body.Methanol toxicity is primarily due to the accumulation of formic acid, which leads to metabolic acidosis and can affect the optic nerve, leading to blindness.

Methanol Metabolism and toxicity
#Methanol Metabolism and toxicity

What is Methanol Poisoning?

Methanol poisoning occurs when a person ingests or inhales methanol. Methanol is often used as a solvent or fuel, but it is also present in some household products, such as windshield washer fluid and antifreeze. When methanol is ingested, it is converted to formaldehyde and formic acid in the body, which can cause significant damage to the organs, including the eyes, kidneys, and liver.

Symptoms of Methanol Poisoning

The symptoms of methanol poisoning can vary depending on the amount of methanol ingested and the length of time since exposure. The symptoms can include:

Early Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Blindness

Late Symptoms

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Respiratory failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Death

Management of Methanol Poisoning

Methanol poisoning requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect that you or someone else has been exposed to methanol, call emergency services right away. In the meantime, take the following steps:

Remove the Source of Methanol

If possible, remove the source of methanol to prevent further exposure.

Perform Basic Life Support

If the person is not breathing or has no pulse, begin CPR immediately.

Administer Antidote

The antidote for methanol poisoning is fomepizole or ethanol. These medications can prevent the conversion of methanol to formaldehyde and formic acid, reducing the risk of organ damage.

Fomepizole mechanism of action in Methanol Poisoning
#Fomepezole mechanism of action in Methanol Poisoning

Provide Supportive Care

Supportive care may include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Electrolyte replacement
  • Hemodialysis

Prevention of Methanol Poisoning

The best way to prevent methanol poisoning is to avoid exposure to methanol. This can be done by:

  • Using methanol-based products only as directed
  • Storing methanol-based products safely
  • Wearing protective gear when working with methanol


Methanol poisoning is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention. Call emergency services immediately if you or someone you know has been exposed to methanol. Remember, prevention is the key to avoiding methanol poisoning.Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions related to medication or treatment.


  1. What is methanol?
    • Methanol is a toxic substance that is often used as a solvent or fuel.
  2. How is methanol poisoning treated?
    • Methanol poisoning is treated with fomepizole or ethanol to prevent the conversion of methanol to formaldehyde and formic acid. Supportive care may also be provided.
  3. What are the symptoms of methanol poisoning?
    • The symptoms of methanol poisoning can include headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, blurred vision, blindness, seizures, coma, respiratory failure, kidney failure, and death.
  4. How can methanol poisoning be prevented?
    • Methanol poisoning can be prevented by using methanol-based products only as directed, storing methanol-based products safely, and wearing protective gear when working with methanol.
  5. What should I do if I suspect methanol poisoning?
    • If you suspect methanol poisoning, call emergency services immediately.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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