Alcohol prep pad used like smelling salts

Posted
by ktvisual ktvisual (New) New

I had an experienced ICU RN show me an "old recovery trick" where just after she stood up a post-op patient for her first walk, she wafted an alcohol prep pad under the patient's nose when patient said she felt a bit dizzy.

It seemed to work (or the amount of time standing stabilized her anyway?) I'm curious to hear thoughts on this, and was ALSO wondering if I have a patient who is unresponsive to voice, and before I do a painful sternal rub, would this be something to try?

Thank you! :)

direw0lf

direw0lf, BSN

Has 4 years experience. 1,069 Posts

Interesting! We were taught to test CN 1 using alcohol pads but not if a pt felt dizzy, If I felt dizzy and nausea, an alcohol pad under my nose would make me vomit since I don't like the smell so be careful haha!

mindofmidwifery, ADN

Specializes in ICU Stepdown. 1,419 Posts

Interesting! We were taught to test CN 1 using alcohol pads but not if a pt felt dizzy, If I felt dizzy and nausea, an alcohol pad under my nose would make me vomit since I don't like the smell so be careful haha!

I've heard that alcohol pads help with dizziness and nausea

Zyprexa_Ho

Zyprexa_Ho

709 Posts

If they're unresponsive to voice, I would hardly think sparing them some short lasting pain would be a priority, but alas I am a lonely CNA

bgxyrnf

bgxyrnf, MSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Tele; ED; ICU. Has 10 years experience. 1,208 Posts

I had an experienced ICU RN show me an "old recovery trick" where just after she stood up a post-op patient for her first walk, she wafted an alcohol prep pad under the patient's nose when patient said she felt a bit dizzy.
Not being an experienced ICU nurse myself, I'd hardly be willing to challenge her but I think it's most likely a combination of the placebo effect, distraction, and acclimation. Recovering from being "a bit dizzy" is likely to happen to most patients without any intervention.

I'm skeptical of folk remedies without a mechanism or backed by studies.

was ALSO wondering if I have a patient who is unresponsive to voice, and before I do a painful sternal rub, would this be something to try?
iPA is not noxious and I don't think it's going to have any effect. Why would you make the leap from "it helped alleviate dizziness" to "maybe it'll wake my unresponsive patient?" That doesn't seem like a logical connection to me.

Thank you! :)

HelloWish

HelloWish, ADN, BSN

Specializes in IMCU, Oncology. Has 3 years experience. 486 Posts

I had a professor teach us about using an alcohol swab for nausea. I tried it recently when doing an IV push for a cancer patient who was extremely nauseated from the taste of the IV push through her port...she could taste it every time we did a push and it made her vomit. She had vomited on the previous pushes, but on the third I handed her a alcohol swab and she sniffed it and avoided vomiting. I think it can work for nausea because the strong smell overpowers whatever is triggering the nausea.

ktvisual

ktvisual

5 Posts

I wouldn't want to try something "old" (as in "an old recovery trick") without hearing from a great many other nurses who had success with it, then I might try it if other interventions failed.

Being curious by nature, the idea that this could also work like smelling salts, i.e. if I could illicit a reaction in a slow-to-respond patient before causing them pain, why wouldn't this be a valid thought process? Or IS it better to just go from Hello?Hello? to the painful sternum rub without a quick step in between?

All comments welcome! :) Thank you for taking time to do so..

bgxyrnf

bgxyrnf, MSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Tele; ED; ICU. Has 10 years experience. 1,208 Posts

I wouldn't want to try something "old" (as in "an old recovery trick") without hearing from a great many other nurses who had success with it, then I might try it if other interventions failed.

Being curious by nature, the idea that this could also work like smelling salts, i.e. if I could illicit a reaction in a slow-to-respond patient before causing them pain, why wouldn't this be a valid thought process? Or IS it better to just go from Hello?Hello? to the painful sternum rub without a quick step in between?

All comments welcome! :) Thank you for taking time to do so..

It's just not a particularly noxious stimulus.

There are a variety of tactile stimuli which are less severe than a sternal rub and there are degrees of severity in a sternal rub itself.

Double-Helix, BSN, RN

Specializes in PICU, Sedation/Radiology, PACU. Has 11 years experience. 1 Article; 3,377 Posts

There are lots of studies regarding the smell of alcohol and its ability to reduce nausea and vomiting. While I'm not aware of any that suggest smelling alcohol reduces orthostatic hypotension (likely the reason the patient felt dizzy upon standing), I suspect it encourages the patient to take deep breaths, increasing the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain.