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Alcohol aromatherapy eases nausea in the ER

December 08, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Nauseated patients in the emergency department who sniffed pads saturated with isopropyl alcohol were twice as likely to obtain relief from their symptoms as nauseated patients who sniffed pads saturated with saline solution, according to a study published online today in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Isopropyl Alcohol Nasal Inhalation for Nausea in the Emergency Department: A Randomized Controlled Trial").

"We love it when we find a cheap, easy and fast way to bring relief to our patients," said lead study author Kenneth Beadle, EMPA-C, of the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium in San Antonio, Texas. "Nausea and vomiting are the chief complaint for nearly five million emergency patients every year, so this remedy has the potential to help a lot of people."

Researchers administered pads saturated with either isopropyl alcohol or saline solution and instructed nauseated patients to inhale deeply through their noses from the pad every two minutes for four minutes, for a maximum of three inhalations. Within 10 minutes of the intervention, the nausea score in the alcohol patients was half that of the saline solution patients. The satisfaction score for the alcohol patients was double the satisfaction score for the saline solution patients.

"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 anti-emetics. That said, the available evidence suggests these alcohol wipes may be a potent tool for relieving nausea and improving satisfaction among our emergency patients."
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Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the national medical society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. For more information, visit http://www.acep.org.

American College of Emergency Physicians

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