Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Girl leaning over gas stove.

Girl leaning over gas stove.
beginning of content

Inhaled substance or object

2 min read

Sometimes people accidentally breathe in something they shouldn’t. That includes liquids, powders, gases and solid items such as medicines or drugs, particularly:

  • small parts from toys
  • food or drink that has ‘gone down the wrong way’
  • smoke from fires
  • chemical and toxic fumes, including household gas (such as the gas from your cooker), aerosols or glues.

It can be hard to work out if a small object or fluid has been swallowed or inhaled. If in doubt, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

If you or your child has inhaled an object, call an ambulance on triple zero (000).

You should go to the nearest emergency department if you have been advised to do so, or if you, or your child, have:

Chemical and toxic fumes

Fumes from chemicals or toxic substances can irritate your airways, skin and eyes, and inhaling a substance can make your nose and throat sore or swollen.

If you have inhaled chemical or toxic fumes, you should get into fresh air straight away. Open doors and windows wide.

If you are with someone who has inhaled toxic fumes, seek medical attention immediately. If they have collapsed, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance and start resuscitation. Tell the operator what the poison was. If you’re not sure, you can call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

If the person vomits, turn their head to the side to prevent choking.

Do not try to rescue someone if there is a toxic gas involved, as you may also inhale the substance. Call triple zero (000) for help.

Some cleaning products can produce toxic gases when they’re mixed together. If this happens, get into fresh air. When it is safe to do so, dispose of the mixed cleaning products safely. There should be instructions on the side of the packaging about safe disposal.

Inhaling substances deliberately

Some people may inhale substances deliberately to harm or injure themselves.

If you have done this, you should know you are not alone and help is available. Please discuss this with a healthcare professional. Find out more about self harm.

Last reviewed: November 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 87 results

Poisoning - Farmer Health | Farmer Health

Poisoning can occur when a person ingests inhales or has skin contact with household, agricultural chemicals or gas. Not only are farmers and agricultural workers at risk but also children or children visiting farms. Poisoning to stock, (sheep, cattle) and...

Read more on The National Centre for Farmer Health website

Chemicals in the home - Better Health Channel

Learn how to safely store and dispose of household chemicals, and how to respond when a person is poisoned.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Chroming | Drugs | ReachOut Australia

Chroming is when a person inhales solvents or other household chemicals to get high. The effects of chroming includes serious health issues and addiction.

Read more on website

Inhalants: what are the effects? -

Even small amounts of inhalants can affect you quite quickly, due to their rapid entry to the bloodstream through the lungs.

Read more on myDr website

Understanding inhalants for young people

Read more on headspace website

Tobacco | myVMC

Tobacco contains an addictive chemical called nicotine that when ingested gives the consumer a rush of adrenaline. Tobacco is most commonly ingested by inhaling the smoke from burning it using a cigarette, cigar or tobacco pipes. It is associated with many, severe adverse health effects.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Burns - Farmer Health | Farmer Health

There are many causes of burns on farms. These include burns from friction, heat, sun, chemicals, equipment and fuels. Read more...

Read more on The National Centre for Farmer Health website

What's in a Cigarette? | myVMC

Cigarettes are a small roll of porous paper containing a rod of chopped up tobacco leaf as well as other additives such as chemicals, sugars and flavourings which are used to increase shelf life, control the rate at which the cigarette burns and control the delivery of the chemicals.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Cannabis: what is it? -

Cannabis is a drug derived from Indian hemp plants such as cannabis sativa. Its main active chemical is THC.

Read more on myDr website

Smoking and Pregnancy - Tobacco and Smoking

If you smoke tobacco while you are pregnant your baby is smoking too and that means baby is exposed to all the nasty harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke.

Read more on NSW Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo