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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. For information on how this is done, see: 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
    • Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

      Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

      • Excessive bleeding
      • Fainting or feeling light-headed
      • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
      • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
  • References
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Emergency Response Safety and Health Database; Methanol: Systemic Agent. Available at: Accessed November 2014.

      Ford MD. Acute poisoning. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 110.