How to Use an Ammonia Inhalant

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Ammonia inhalants--also known as smelling salts--have long been an easy, over-the-counter treatment for sudden fainting spells. If the fainting is benign, however, most people regain consciousness before the inhalant is ever administered. Ammonia inhalants are also not a medical treatment--they only treat the symptom. Awake or unconscious, take care to discern and treat the underlying cause of a sudden fainting spell, and seek treatment accordingly. Read on to learn more about how doctors use an ammonia inhalant.

  • Crush the ampoule between your fingers, 6 inches under the patient's nose.

  • Draw the ampoule closer to the nose as the ammonia evaporates, without touching the skin or eyes. Replace the ampoule if the smell grows faint.

  • Meanwhile, assess the health of your patient, and work to determine the cause of the fainting. Ammonia inhalants are intended for benign losses of consciousness, caused by things like hunger, lack of sleep, stifling heat, excessive exercise and more. Serious, life-threatening causes, like drug use, stroke, diabetes, cardiac arrest and so on require medical attention.

  • Apply the inhalants until the patient regains consciousness. If the patient does not quickly regain consciousness, seek immediate medical attention.

Tips & Warnings

  • Although children have shown no adverse effects to ammonia inhalants, you should obtain permission before using ammonia inhalants on a child, and check with your doctor to make sure that your child can tolerate its use.
  • Do not administer ammonia inhalants if your patient exhibits a flushed face, bronchitis, asthma, or lung disease or eye problems. Ammonia that comes into contact with the eyes can also cause blindness--if this occurs, seek immediate medical attention.

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