What to do after Inhaling Paint Fumes


Last updated: June 16, 2023

Here is What You Should Do After Inhaling Paint Fumes – Insights from a Professional Painter.

What to do after inhaling paint fumes

You may not be really into the color of your new home’s kitchen, or you may be preparing a nursery to welcome a new family member. 

No matter what your reasons are, we all know how painting is one of the best ways of making home improvements.

One of the major things to remember is that paint fumes can be hazardous. So, before you start working on your DIY project, do you know what to do after inhaling fumes? If you do not, then you ought to so that you can be prepared in case it happens.

This post will outline the best way to deal with spray fumes inhalation, safety precautions to be observed when painting, and other related information. 

Without further ado, let us get into it.

What to do after inhaling paint fumes.

After inhaling fumes, you should try to remain calm and find a place with fresh air. Ensure you take deep breaths and increase your fluid intake. If you start having headaches or feeling dizzy at any point, call poison control or seek medical attention immediately. 

What are spray paint fumes?

Spray paint fumes are produced when you are spray painting a surface. They are also still produced in the air while the paint is not dry. One easy way to know whether strong paint fumes are in a room is by the paint smell.

Solvent paint fumes are hazardous to human health because of the toxic compounds in the spray paints. 

Solvent and other inorganic components used in these paints are responsible for emitting volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. The volatile organic compounds make spray paint fumes dangerous to human health.

It is important to note that the level of toxicity of spray paint fumes is majorly dependent on what type of paint you use. 

Water-based paints, such as acrylic spray paints, have far fewer VOCs than oil-based or solvent-based spray paints. However, even though the former has fewer VOCs and thus is less harmful, avoiding exposure to their fumes is still prudent.

What Are the harmful effects of exposure to paint fumes?

So, we know that inhaling spray paint can be hazardous to your health. But what are the side effects of inhaling paint fumes? 

There are various adverse effects due to the VOCs in spray paints, and various studies document them; a good example is this study. 

It is also important to note that different types of spraint paint fumes have varying degrees of toxicity to the human body. For example, a water based paint has the least volatile organic elements compared to a lead based paint or oil based paint.

Nonetheless, no matter the type of paint you use, you should also take all the necessary steps to avoid inhaling spray paint. Remember that any amount of VOCs you inhale will still be harmful to your health.

While most of the effects are short-term, long-term effects can be developed, especially due to prolonged exposure to paint fumes.

The long-term effect may include liver, kidney, nervous, and respiratory systems damage and even fatality in severe cases. 

Short-term effects/signs and symptoms of spray paint inhalation

When the paint comes in contact with your skin, it can lead to irritation. Also, when the paint is swallowed, it can be dangerous, especially if it is oil-based paint.

As discussed above, most of the effects are short-term after inhaling spray paint fumes. These fumes can irritate your throat, nose, and eyes. 

Typically, the irritation will go away after you get enough fresh, especially if the exposure to paint fumes is minimal.

Inhaling harmful chemicals present in spray paint fumes may have the following short-term effects:

  • Headaches.
  • Throat, nose, and eye irritation.
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Furthermore, exposure to fumes can trigger allergic reactions and conditions such as asthma when the levels of spray paint accumulated in the lungs are high. It also increases the likelihood of conditions such as rhinitis and eczema.

High-risk people

Certain groups are at a high risk of developing different complications if they inhale spray paint fumes. 

These are:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Pets.
  • Individuals with compromised respiratory systems.
  • Children.

How long are paint fumes harmful?

After spray painting, it can generally take 2-3 days after the paint has dried up for the fumes to stop being harmful. 

Remember, the main point here is after the paint has completely dried up and not after painting. 

Therefore, you should give the freshly painted room enough time to dry completely and another 2-3 days before the fumes are harmless.

According to Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection, you must ventilate a painted room for at least 48 – 72 hours. This is to ensure that all the toxic VOCs have dissipated.

What to do after you inhale spray paint fumes

There are things you can do after inhaling paint fumes to help you reduce their effect on your well-being. Some of these include:

1. Avoid perfumes (artificial scents)

Artificial scents contain noxious gases. Using perfumes or artificial fragrances with these gases after inhaling fumes can irritate the lungs and cause coughing.

After spray paint inhalation, one is usually advised to stay away from artificial scents, air fresheners, scented detergents, and perfumes for at least one month. This is meant to give your lungs enough time to recuperate from the damage caused by spray paint inhalation completely.

2. Controlled coughing

One of the ways for your body to naturally flush or clear toxins in the lungs is by coughing. There is usually a mucus build-up in the lungs after inhaling spray paint fumes. 

Controlled coughing provides a way to get rid of mucus and flush your airways and lung. 

Here is how to carry out controlled coughing:

  • Sit at the edge of the bed or chair and place your feet on the floor while also relaxing your shoulders.
  • Inhale using your nose while placing your hand across the stomach.
  • Lean forward as you exhale slowly and press your arms against your stomach.
  • Open your mouth and cough 2-3 times when exhaling.
  • You can repeat the steps as many times as required.

3. Steam inhalation

Steam inhalation techniques have been used for q long time. They are mostly employed in treating respiratory issues and flushing mucus from the lungs. 

Using steam inhalation to clear spray paint fumes from your lungs is a great idea especially given how effective the technique has proven to be in clearing toxins in the respiratory system.

4. Get fresh air

Breathing in fresh air is one of the quickest ways to get relief after inhaling spray paint fumes. 

You should inhale deeply and hold your breath for a couple of seconds before exhaling using your mouth. This is a way of getting rid of the accumulated fumes in the lungs.

Getting fresh air will also help you combat the shortness of breath characteristic of inhaling paint fumes.

5. Physical activity

One of the ways to improve your lung health is by doing physical and exercise activities. This will allow muscles to loosen up, increase your breathing rate, and improve blood flow. 

This means more air will flow through your lungs, hastening the removal of accumulated paint fumes.

One of the most important things is to ensure that you do not overburden your lungs by exercising too much. 

We recommend that you perform gentle exercises and consult your physician before starting any new exercise routine.

6. Take more fluids

Taking in more fluids after inhaling paint fumes can help reduce the effects on your body. The more fluids you take, the easier time your body has when detoxifying itself. 

You can increase your intake of green tea, which also provides anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce inflammation in your lungs.

7. Using an inhaler

Inhalers are one of the ways to expand and improve the flow of oxygen through the airways. This can help combat the short-term effects of paint inhalation, such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

8. Seek medical attention

Always seek medical attention immediately after exposure to spray paint fumes. Call emergency services such as poison control when you feel dizzy or light-headed after paint inhalation. 

You may also choose to visit a local or nearby clinic or hospital.

Safety precautions you should take when spray painting

Taking the necessary precaution when spray painting will help reduce the chances of inhaling paint fumes. 

Below are some of the measures you should implement to protect yourself and the environment from paint fumes:

  • Wear safety gear

Wearing protective equipment such as gloves, respirator masks, and goggles is essential. The mask will protect you from inhaling the fumes from the paint and thus prevent nose and throat irritation. 

The goggles protect your eyes from exposure to paint or paint fumes.

  • Spray paint in a well-aerated work area

Never spray paint in a room that is not well-aerated. 

Ensure the work area is well-ventilated to allow the paint fumes to escape. This will also help your paint dry out faster and, thus, reduce the time the fumes will take to dissipate from the room/work area completely.

  • Avoid using damaged spray paint cans

Unbeknownst to some people, damaged spray paint cans can be very dangerous. 

Not only can they leak paint fumes which are hazardous to your health, but they also increase the risk of fire, especially if they are used or stored close to fires or electric circuits.

  • Do not use spray paint close to fires or electrical circuits

Spray paint is very flammable. To avoid fire hazards, we recommend not storing or using spray paints close to any open fires or electric circuits and sockets.

  • Choose water-based paints over oil based paints whenever possible

There are different types of paint available. However, we suggest you opt for water-based paints whenever possible. 

Water-based spray paints have fewer VOCs, and their fumes are less toxic than oil-based or lead-based paints.

  • Be mindful of the environment

Fumes from spray paint can easily be carried by the wind and stick to living things around the environment. For example, the fumes might be blown and stick to trees or plants around where you are working. 

This can lead to health issues for plants or other living things.

  • Take fresh air breaks

One of the most crucial things to do while spray painting is to take frequent breaks to get fresh air. 

Most people assume that because when you wear protective equipment, you do not have to take breaks – which is incorrect. 

You still have to take breaks to avoid inhaling a lot of fumes – remember that even with a mask, chances are that you will still inhale a minimal amount of fumes.

I Inhaled Spray Paint, and This is What I DidMark’s Testimony

I first noticed the strong paint fumes smell that seemed to linger in my windpipes. I inhaled the fumes because one of the seals on my respirator mask was damaged.

I ensured I remained calm and walked out of the room I was spray painting before removing the mask. I then took deep breaths to get fresh air into my lungs. 

After a few minutes of breathing exercises, I drank a lot of fluids (water and green tea) and then called my physician. 

Over the next several weeks, I followed my doctor’s advice to the ‘T.’ This included increasing my intake of fluids and foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties, steam inhalation, and using an inhaler.

Doing all this helped, and if you are wondering, I’m fine now!

FAQs – What to do after inhaling paint fumes

How long will paint fumes last in my system?

Paint fumes can take months to dissipate from your system. The main determining factor on how long this can last is how much paint fumes you inhale and for how long. 

Typically, fumes can take up to 24 weeks to completely leave your system if you have been exposed to significant amounts of paint fumes.

Can paint fumes make you sick?

As established earlier, paint fumes contain volatile organic compounds that can harm your health. Always take precautionary measures when spray painting to avoid spray paint inhalation. 

If you inhale paint fumes, you should take the actions outlined in the article.

Can you sleep in a room with paint fumes?

NO. This is not recommended because you will expose yourself to the harmful VOCs filled in the air inside the room. 

It can be especially dangerous to sleep in such a room, given that you won’t be able to notice any danger signs and effects when you are asleep.

What should I do when I feel dizzy during a spray painting project?

Ensure that you remain calm and walk out to get fresh air. After walking out, remove the mask and take a deep breath of fresh air. Next, call poison control or any available emergency services in your area.

How long does it take for spray paint fumes to go away?

The fumes may take 72 hours (3 days) after the paint has dried. Please remember that even when you do not notice the paint smell, harmful VOCs might still be present in the air if the paint job has not dried up completely.

Does using air purifiers help with spray paint fumes?

Yes, air purifiers can help in reducing spray paint fumes. For example, HEPA purifiers can help eliminate more than 99.97% of the volatile organic compounds commonly found in paint fumes.

Does inhaled spray paint cause lung inflammation?

The volatile organic compounds found in paints can irritate the lungs. The irritation ends up causing the lungs to have an inflammatory response. 

One way to deal with this is by taking fluids and foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as ginger and green tea.

Content Summary

Spray painting provides a quick, easy, and affordable way of improving your home and sprucing up the aesthetic appeal of different surfaces and objects. 

However, the process of spray painting produces harmful fumes that can be detrimental to human health.

Therefore, you must take all the necessary precautionary and safety measures when using or storing spray paint. Remember to wear protective equipment when spray painting and work in a ventilated area.

Whenever you inhale spray paint fumes, it is important that you quickly get fresh and take more fluids. You should seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or poison control.

Leave a Comment