Inhalant Abuse

Scenarios: A 16-year-old boy is found dead after inhaling fumes from an aerosol air freshener. A teen dies from sniffing nitrous oxide. A group of Central Florida pre-teens recently became ill after obtaining freon from a school air conditioning unit.


Children as young as 10 years old have abused:

  • spot removers
  • glue
  • disposable lighters
  • hair spray
  • paint thinners
  • whipped cream
  • polish removers
  • typewriter correction fluids
  • nitrous oxide
  • deodorants & air fresheners
  • gasoline

How do inhalants affect the body?

After inhaling the product for a short time, inhalants may create a feeling of excitation followed by drowsiness, headache, dizziness or respiratory irritation. Long-term abuse causes brain/kidney/liver damage. In some cases, instant death occurs because the heart begins beating erratically (ventricular fibrillation), resulting in “sudden sniffing death.”

Signs of regular use include:

  • paint or stains on the face or clothes
  • red or runny eyes or nose
  • spots or sores around the nose or mouth
  • chemical breath odor
  • anxiety, irritability, excitability

Awareness and prevention:

Parents can observe their children for the signs of abuse and changes in their child’s routines and behavior. Studies have shown that a high percentage of children have abused inhalants, but a low percentage of parents think children actually abuse these substances. Efforts such as family discussions, education and prompt treatment will help. For more information, visit