Symptoms of Overexposure to Paint Fumes

The risks from exposure to paint fumes is generally associated with oil-based paints, which are primarily used outdoors. Latex paints produce less fumes and so are recommended for indoor use. Though oil-based paints tend to be used outside, their fumes have been known to leach into buildings and make people sick. Both latex and oil-based paints should be used in properly ventilated spaces to avoid complications.

Direct Contact

Splashing paint in or around your eyes can cause severe irritation to the eye 2. If you get paint in your eye, you should immediately wash it out by spraying water in your eye continuously for a couple of minutes. Then you should visit your primary care physician as soon as possible. If the paint comes in direct contact with your skin, you might also experience skin irritation or dry cracking of the skin. Be sure to wash your skin off thoroughly when you finish a paint job.


Inhaling paint fumes for an extended period can lead to sudden headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and confused or clouded thinking. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should immediately leave the area being painted. Breathing fresh air for 15 to 20 minutes should relieve most of the symptoms. If the symptoms continue, you should see a doctor.

Long-term Effects

Repeated exposure to paint fumes over the long term can have dangerous physical effects. Frequent inhalation of paint fumes can lead to blood deficiency and organ damage, primarily to the kidney, brain and liver. If you are regularly exposed to paint fumes at your job or residence, you should invest in proper ventilation systems and wear a mask when applying paint.


Preventing hazardous exposure to paint fumes is simple. When painting a room in your house, open up all the doors and windows. Set up a box fan in the window facing the outdoors so you blow toxic fumes outside instead of into other areas of your home. Keep the fan on for two days after you paint or until the paint is fully dry. If you are painting the outside of your home with oil-based paint, make sure that there are no vents blowing outside air into your home. If you start to experience symptoms, consider vacating your home until the paint job is finished.