The Effects of Inhaling Moth Balls

Moth balls contain a highly toxic substance called naphthalene. Although the FDA has determined moth balls to be safe for general use, the inhalation of a moth ball or its fumes can cause serious health problems. The effects of naphthalene poisoning are particularly severe in infants and young children. If you or someone you know has inhaled a moth ball, visit your doctor or call poison control immediately.


After being exposed to naphthalene, be alert for the sudden onset of a headache. This can indicate poisoning and should not be taken lightly.

Nausea and Vomiting

An upset stomach and vomiting can both be symptoms of moth ball inhalation. If the nausea does not pass or the vomiting persists, seek medical attention. If the person that inhaled the moth ball is young, take them to the doctor at the first sign of gastrointestinal distress.

Burning Eyes

When handling moth balls, your eyes may start to burn and itch from their chemical fumes. Inhalation of a moth ball or its fumes can exacerbate these symptoms. Acute exposure can even lead to temporary blindness or cataracts.

Breathing Trouble

Coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath are all common side effects of moth ball inhalation. Seek medical assistance to ensure that regular breathing is re-established.


Diarrhea can indicate naphthalene poisoning. Do not ignore this symptom in young children, because it can lead to severe dehydration.


Over time, long-term exposure to naphthalene can lead to an anemia. Symptoms include weakness, dizziness, fatigue and fainting. If you or someone you know has been regularly inhaling moth balls or their fumes, take them to the doctor immediately. Be sure to alert your physician of any symptoms of anemia.


Mental disorientation or confusion can be a side effect of moth ball inhalation. If a person has just inhaled a moth ball and seems confused about their surroundings, can't identify friends or family or is unable to speak coherently, take them to the doctor immediately.


Moth ball inhalation can lead to convulsions, seizures or limpness. If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical assistance right away.


Acute exposure to naphthalene can cause a coma. If someone has inhaled multiple moth balls and becomes unresponsive, call 911 immediately.