Isopropyl Alcohol Nasal Inhalation for Nausea in the Emergency Department: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Ann Emerg Med. 2016 Jul;68(1):1-9.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2015.09.031. Epub 2015 Dec 8.


Study objective: We compare nasal inhalation of isopropyl alcohol versus placebo in treating nausea among emergency department (ED) patients.

Methods: A convenience sample of adults with chief complaints of nausea or vomiting was enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in an urban tertiary care ED. Patients were randomized to nasally inhaled isopropyl alcohol versus nasally inhaled normal saline solution. Patient nausea and pain were measured with previously published 11-point verbal numeric response scale scores; patient satisfaction was measured by a 5-point Likert scale. The primary outcome was reduction in nausea 10 minutes poststart. Secondary outcomes included patient satisfaction and pain reduction measured at 10 minutes poststart.

Results: Of 84 recruited patients, 80 (95.2%) completed the study. Thirty-seven (46.3%) received nasally inhaled isopropyl alcohol and 43 (53.8%) received nasally inhaled normal saline solution. At 10 minutes postintervention, median nausea verbal numeric response scale score was 3 in the isopropyl alcohol arm versus 6 in the placebo arm, for an effect size of 3 (95% confidence interval 2 to 4). Median satisfaction score was 4 in the isopropyl alcohol arm versus 2 in the placebo arm, for an effect size of 2 (95% confidence interval 2 to 2). There were no significant differences between the 2 arms in median pain verbal numeric response scale scores or subsequent receipt of rescue antiemetics.

Conclusion: We found that nasally inhaled isopropyl alcohol achieves increased nausea relief compared with placebo during a 10-minute period.

Trial registration: NCT02092441.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • 2-Propanol / administration & dosage
  • 2-Propanol / therapeutic use*
  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adult
  • Antiemetics / administration & dosage
  • Antiemetics / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nausea / drug therapy*
  • Patient Satisfaction


  • Antiemetics
  • 2-Propanol

Associated data