What is Quinine?

Quinine (chemical formula: C20H24N2O2), is a colourless to white crystal or powder. It is odourless but bitter in taste. Quinine does not mix well with water, but is soluble in alcohol and chloroform. 

What is Quinine used for?

Quinine is used to treat simple cases of malaria, however the World Health Organisation (WHO) no longer recommends this as the best option due to better alternatives with fewer side effects. Quinine is also used in the treatment of lupus and arthritis.  

For food and drinks, quinine is used as a bittering agent, 

Used also as a bittering agent in food and beverage, quinine is responsible for the bitterness that we taste in drinks such as tonic water. 

Quinine continues to be used as a treatment for malaria, hundreds of years since its discovery
Quinine continues to be used as a treatment for malaria, hundreds of years since its discovery 

Quinine Hazards

The routes of exposure for quinine include inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of quinine can cause inflammation and irritation of the respiratory system. Persons with existing conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, circulatory or nervous system damage or kidney damage, may incur further damage if inhaled.

Ingestion of large amounts of quinine can cause severe poisoning with symptoms such as; headache, fever, vomiting, muscle weakness, excitement, deafness, blindness, confusion, low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. Renal failure can occur, with death being a real possibility. 

Skin contact can produce irritation, inflammation, redness, swelling, blistering and scaling. Quinine may also accentuate any pre-existing dermatitis conditions. Entry into the bloodstream through open cuts and wounds may also lead to other harmful effects.  

Evidence suggests that eye contact with quinine may cause severe ocular lesions that can remain for at least a day after the exposure. Repeated or prolonged exposure may cause inflammation, redness, temporary vision impairment and eye damage. 

Quinine Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay the patient down and keep them warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR, preferably with a bag-valve mask device. Transport to hospital without delay. 

If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. If vomiting does occur, lean the patient forward or place them on their left side to prevent aspiration. The patient should rinse their mouth out with water and drink as much as they comfortably can. Seek medical advice. 

If skin exposure occurs, immediately remove all contaminated clothing and footwear and flush the affected area with plenty of running water and soap. Seek medical attention in the event of irritation.

If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention without delay. 

Quinine Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical. There should always be adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants (install local exhaust if necessary). 

The PPE recommended when handling quinine includes, chemical goggles, face shields, rubber or PVC gloves, dust respirators, protective suits, head coverings, lab coats and safety boots. 

Refer to your SDS first, to ensure you have the information on how you can protect yourself to handle quinine safely. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at sales@chemwatch.net for more information about our chemicals management solutions. 

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