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Methyl Salicylate Overdose/Poisoning
Last Updated: 02/25/2011

Methyl salicylate poisoning is unusual, and deaths from high levels of the chemical are rare.

"Chronic use is more dangerous than one-time use," Edward Arsura, chairman of medicine at Richmond University Medical Center, told the Staten Island Advance. "Exercise and heat can accentuate absorption."

Medical Encyclopedia: Methyl salicylate overdose

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Alternative names   

Deep heating rubs overdose; Oil of wintergreen overdose


This is poisoning from swallowing methyl salicylate.

Poisonous Ingredient   

  • Methyl salicylate

Where Found   

  • Oil of wintergreen
  • Deep-heating creams used to relieve sore muscles and joints
  • Solutions for vaporizers
Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


  • Lungs
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Rapid breathing
    • No breathing
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
    • Ringing in the ears
  • Gastrointestinal
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
  • Nervous system
    • Dizziness
    • Hallucinations
    • Drowsiness
    • Agitation
  • Heart and blood
    • Convulsions
    • Collapse
  • Whole body
    • Fever

Before Calling Emergency   

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number   

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national 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 U.S. 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 container with you to the hospital, if possible.

See National Poison Control center.

What to expect at the emergency room   

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The patient may receive:

  • Methods to make the person throw up
  • Activated charcoal.
  • Laxative
  • Blood tests to determine the salicylate level in the blood
  • Fluids (milk, fruit juice, or, in severe cases, IV fluids)
  • Sodium bicarbonate 
  • Dialysis (in severe cases)

Expectations (prognosis)   

How well a patient does depends on how much salicylate is in the blood. The person usually recovers if the effect of the salicylate can be turned off (neutralized).

Methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen) is the most poisonous (toxic) form of the salicylates. Doses of less than 1 teaspoonful have been deadly in small children.

Update Date: 3/13/2006 Updated by: Eric Perez, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-RooseveltHospital Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed HealthcareNetwork.

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