This teenager died after inhaling spray deodorant — an expert explains why

Korin Miller
A teenager in the Netherlands died after inhaling spray deodorant. Now doctors are trying to figure out why. (Photo: Getty Images/Michal Puchala)
A teenager in the Netherlands died after inhaling spray deodorant. Now doctors are trying to figure out why. (Photo: Getty Images/Michal Puchala)

People use spray deodorant all the time with no problems. But a new case report tells the story of someone who abused the drugstore staple — and ended up dying as a result.

A new BMJ case report breaks down the story of an unnamed 19-year-old in the Netherlands who died after he inhaled spray deodorant to try to get high. The teen had been admitted to a rehabilitation center for abuse of marijuana and ketamine (a hallucinogen). He was also taking antipsychotic drugs, according to the report.

Unfortunately, the man suffered a relapse in July, the report says. During that time, he put a towel over his head and inhaled spray deodorant. Soon after, he became hyperactive and started jumping up and down. Then his blood flow stopped, he went into cardiac arrest, and he collapsed.

He was taken to the hospital, where staff couldn’t revive him. Then he was placed in a medically induced coma. Doctors discovered that he was severely brain damaged and withdrew care nine days after he was admitted to the hospital. He eventually died.

It’s kind of shocking that something as simple as deodorant could kill someone, but there are a few reasons this can be so deadly, Jamie Alan, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Spray deodorant has to have some kind of propellant, which is problematic.

“The hydrocarbons in the propellant do a number of things,” Alan says. “They replace oxygen in the blood, they cross into the brain and cause euphoria and hallucinations, they sensitize the heart to natural epinephrine and can cause arrhythmias or cardiac arrest, they damage the lungs and further hinder the body’s oxygen carrying capacity, and they act as a central nervous system depressant.” Of all of those, “the arrhythmias and decreased oxygen are the most likely to cause a seizure,” Alan says.

If you regularly use spray deodorant as recommended, you don’t need to panic and worry that you’re going to suddenly die from it. “If people use spray deodorant as suggested, there is little to no risk of this happening,” Alan says. “You would have to intentionally inhale a relatively large amount.”

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