Nitrous oxide tank cold burn to the forearm: a case study and discussion of the literature
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Nitrous oxide tank cold burn to the forearm: a case study and discussion of the literature

Oliver Allen Registered advanced nurse practitioner, emergency department, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
Muireann Keating Core surgical trainee, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, plastic and reconstructive surgery, St James’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Why you should read this article:
  • To learn about the history of nitrous oxide (N2O) as a recreational drug and as an analgesic and anaesthetic

  • To enhance your understanding of the adverse effects and risks of recreational N2O use

  • To refresh your knowledge of the pathophysiology and management of cold burn injuries

Nitrous oxide (N2O) has become one of the most popular recreational drugs in Europe. While N2O is often used in medical settings as an analgesic and anaesthetic agent, its recreational use was documented many years before its introduction into clinical practice. The desired effects from inhaling N2O for recreational purposes include rapid feelings of relaxation, calmness and euphoria, which can be accompanied by giddiness and laughter. There are various adverse effects associated with N2O use, including headache, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and the development of permanent neurological damage. Furthermore, its use is associated with cold burns and road accidents. This article details the case of a patient who sustained an N2O tank burn to his forearm from recreational use. It also discusses the prevalence, legal status and adverse effects of N2O use as well as the pathophysiology and management of cold burn injuries.

Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2024.e2191

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Allen O, Keating M (2024) Nitrous oxide tank cold burn to the forearm: a case study and discussion of the literature. Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2024.e2191

Published online: 25 January 2024

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