Sniffing isopropyl alcohol may be a cheap and effective way to relieve nausea among emergency department patients, a recent study suggests.
Researchers from the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to test the efficacy of inhaled isopropyl alcohol for relieving nausea and pain versus placebo. The 80 patients enrolled in the study were randomly assigned to receive pads soaked with isopropyl alcohol (n=37) or a saline solution.
“Nausea and vomiting are the chief complaint for nearly 5 million emergency patients every year, so this remedy has the potential to help a lot of people,” said Kenneth Beadle, EMPA-C, lead study author, in a press release.
The pads were held 2.5 cm from each patient’s nose. The patients were told to inhale deeply for no more than 60 seconds at three time points: start of the study, two minutes and four minutes. Patients were asked to stop further inhalations if the nausea was completely relieved at any time of the study. Patients were allowed rescue antiemetics if they showed no improvement by study completion (10 minutes post-intervention).
The primary outcome was nausea reduction at 10 minutes post-intervention measured with an 11-point nausea verbal numeric response scale. Secondary outcomes included patient satisfaction measured with a five-point Likert scale (1 indicates “very unsatisfied” and 5 indicates “very satisfied”) and pain reduction at 10 minutes.
The median nausea verbal numeric response scale score was 3 versus 6, and the median satisfaction score was 4 versus 2 for the alcohol and placebo groups, respectively. The researchers did not find any significant differences in median pain scores or receipt of rescue antiemetics.
“Alcohol wipes are safe, and there were no adverse effects,” said Dr. Beadle. “Further research is warranted to test the duration of the effect and performance in comparison to traditional pharmaceutical antiemetics. That said, the available evidence suggests these alcohol wipes may be a potent tool for relieving nausea and improving satisfaction among our emergency patients.”
The findings were published online Dec. 8 in Annals of Emergency Medicine