Camphor Poisoning: an evidence-based practice guideline for out-of-hospital management

Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2006;44(4):357-70. doi: 10.1080/15563650600671696.


A review of national poison center data from 1990 through 2003 showed approximately 10,000 annual ingestion exposures to camphor-containing products. A guideline that determines the threshold dose for emergency department referral and need for pre-hospital decontamination could potentially avoid unnecessary emergency department visits, reduce health care costs, optimize patient outcome, and reduce life disruption for patients and caregivers. An evidence-based expert consensus process was used to create the guideline. Relevant articles were abstracted by a trained physician researcher. The first draft of the guideline was created by the primary author. The entire panel discussed and refined the guideline before distribution to secondary reviewers for comment. The panel then made changes based on the secondary review comments. The objective of this guideline is to assist poison center personnel in the appropriate out-of-hospital triage and initial management of patients with suspected exposures to camphor-containing products by 1) describing the manner in which an exposure to camphor might be managed, 2) identifying the key decision elements in managing cases of camphor exposure, 3) providing clear and practical recommendations that reflect the current state of knowledge, and 4) identifying needs for research. This guideline applies to camphor exposure alone. Co-ingestion of additional substances, such as in commercial products of camphor combined with other ingredients, could require different referral and management recommendations depending on the combined toxicities of the substances. This guideline is based on an assessment of current scientific and clinical information. The expert consensus panel recognizes that specific patient care decisions may be at variance with this guideline, and are the prerogative of the patient and the health professionals providing care, considering all of the circumstances involved. This guideline does not substitute for clinical judgment. Recommendations are in chronological order of likely clinical use. The grade of recommendation is in parentheses. 1) Patients with stated or suspected self-harm or who are the recipients of malicious administration of a camphor-containing product should be referred to an emergency department immediately, regardless of the amount ingested (Grade D). 2) Patients who have ingested more than 30 mg/kg of a camphor-containing product or who are exhibiting symptoms of moderate to severe toxicity (e.g., convulsions, lethargy, ataxia, severe nausea and vomiting) by any route of exposure should be referred to an emergency department for observation and treatment (Grade D). 3) Patients exhibiting convulsions following a camphor exposure should be transported to an emergency department by pre-hospital emergency medical care providers (Grade D). A benzodiazepine should be used to control convulsions (Grade C). 4) Patients who have been exposed to a camphor product and who remain asymptomatic after 4 hours can be safely observed at home (Grade C). 5) Induction of emesis with ipecac syrup should not be performed in patients who have ingested camphor products (Grade C). 6) Activated charcoal administration should not be used for the ingestion of camphor products. However, it could be considered if there are other ingredients in the product that are effectively adsorbed by activated charcoal or if other substances have been co-ingested. (Grade C). 7) For asymptomatic patients with topical exposures to camphor products, the skin should be thoroughly washed with soap and water and the patient can be observed at home for development of symptoms (Grade C). 8) For patients with topical splash exposures of camphor to the eye(s), the eye(s) should be irrigated in accordance with usual poison center procedures and that referral take place based on the presence and severity of symptoms (Grade D). 9) Patients with camphor inhalation exposures should be moved to a fresh air environment and referred for medical care based on the presence and severity of symptoms. It is unlikely that symptoms will progress once the patient is removed from the exposure environment (Grade D).

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Camphor / poisoning*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • Poison Control Centers / standards*
  • Poisoning / therapy


  • Camphor