Isopropyl alcohol intoxication in a neonate through chronic dermal exposure: a complication of a culturally-based umbilical care practice

Pediatr Emerg Care. 1994 Apr;10(2):91-3. doi: 10.1097/00006565-199404000-00008.


A 21-day-old boy presented to our emergency department hypotonic, lethargic, and intermittently unresponsive to pain. A workup for ketoacidosis, sepsis, and central nervous system hemorrhage was negative. A urine drug screen collected eight hours after hospitalization showed 39 mg/dl of isopropyl alcohol and 76 mg/dl of acetone. The first serum drug analysis was not performed until 18 hours after admission, at a time when there had been clinical improvement. The isopropyl alcohol concentration was 8 mg/dl, and the acetone concentration was 203 mg/dl. Management was supportive, and the patient stabilized. He was discharged from the hospital in good health in three days. A further review of the history showed no evidence for an oral exposure to isopropyl alcohol. However, since leaving the maternity hospital the mother had been applying gauze pads or cotton balls soaked with isopropyl alcohol to the umbilicus with every diaper change. We conclude that the child suffered from an isopropyl alcohol intoxication that occurred by absorption through the umbilical area.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • 1-Propanol / poisoning*
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Care*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Poisoning / ethnology
  • Poisoning / physiopathology
  • Portugal / ethnology
  • Skin Absorption*
  • Umbilicus*
  • United States


  • 1-Propanol