Isopropyl alcohol nasal inhalation for nausea in the triage of an adult emergency department

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 Mar:41:9-13. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2020.12.052. Epub 2020 Dec 23.


Objectives: Nausea and vomiting (N&V) are among the most common complaints in the emergency department (ED). However, low acuity is assigned to most of these patients at the triage, and waiting for long hours without medication decreases patient safety and satisfaction. We aimed to compare the inhalation of isopropyl alcohol (IPA) with placebo (P) to treat nausea at the triage area of an ED.

Methods: In this prospective, randomized and placebo-controlled trial, we used a convenience sample of consecutive adult (ages 18-65) patients presented to the triage area of the ED with the complaint of N&V, and we randomized them to inhale IPA or P embedded gauzes. We used an 11-point (0-10) numeric rating scale (NRS) to evaluate the degree of N&V before the inhalation, at the baseline, and at 2, 4 and 10 min after the inhalation.

Results: We randomized 118 patients (IPA, n = 62; P, n = 56, intent-to-treat), three patients left the ED without being seen, and 115 patients completed the study. IPA and P groups were similar according to age, sex, comorbidities, and vital signs. We found that patients in the IPA group had significantly lower mean NRS starting with the 2nd minute (robust two-way mixed ANOVA between-subjects, p = 0.008). We also observed a significant within-subjects effect in the IPA group. The mean NRS value was decreased at each consecutive time point in the IPA group (all pairwise comparisons, p < 0.001).

Conclusion: In this study, IPA was significantly more effective than P for N&V at the triage. Moreover, patients in the IPA group had less need for rescue treatment.

Keywords: Aromatherapy; Inhalation; Isopropyl alcohol; Triage.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • 2-Propanol / administration & dosage*
  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Emergency Treatment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Triage
  • Young Adult


  • 2-Propanol