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Methanol test

Definition

Methanol is a substance that can occur naturally in small amounts in the body. The main sources of methanol in the body include fruits, vegetables, and diet drinks that contain aspartame.

Methanol is a type of alcohol that is sometimes used for industrial and automotive purposes. It can be toxic if you eat or drink it in certain amounts. Methanol is sometimes called "wood alcohol."

A test can be done to measure the amount of methanol in your blood.

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed. The blood is collected from a vein, most often in your arm or hand venipuncture.

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparation is necessary.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing where the needle was inserted.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is done to see if you have a toxic level of methanol in your body. You should not drink methanol. However, some people accidentally drink methanol, or drink it on purpose as a substitute for grain alcohol (ethanol).

Methanol can be very poisonous if you eat or drink it in toxic amounts. Methanol poisoning mainly affects the digestive system, nervous system, and eyes.

Normal Results

A normal result is below a toxic cut-off level.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result means you may have methanol poisoning.

Risks

Risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Emergency Response Safety and Health Database. Methanol: systemic agent. Updated May 28, 2015. www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/EmergencyResponseCard_29750029.html. Accessed January 20, 2017.

Nelson LS, Ford MD. Acute poisoning. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 110.

Review Date:11/15/2016
Reviewed By:Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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