Some individuals inhale compressed air from small cans to get a feeling of euphoria. This can lead to serious side effects. In some cases, it can be fatal.

Air dusters are cans of compressed air. People use them to remove dust and dirt from hard-to-reach areas, such as between keyboard sets. A person can misuse air dusters by inhaling the gas when someone sprays the can.

However, inhaling air duster fumes can be dangerous. It can lead to serious side effects, such as liver problems, breathing problems, or possibly death.

Read on to learn more about air duster misuse, including its dangers, signs of misuse, and when to seek help.

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Air dusters are cans of compressed air that people use for cleaning hard-to-reach areas. Air dusters are legal to buy, and people can find them in many hardware stores.

Air dusters are not a controlled substance. When individuals misuse them, air dusters are known as a type of inhalant. An inhalant is a substance that people typically only misuse through inhalation.

Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that around 1% of adolescents aged between 12⁠–17 years misused air dusters in 2015. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) notes that many states in the United States have tried to reduce this by limiting sales to minors.

Air dusters can contain various ingredients, including some dangerous substances. They may contain dangerous ingredients that can cause side effects if a person inhales them, such as:

  • difluoroethane, which can cause heart issues and loss of consciousness
  • nitrous oxide, which can cause dizziness, vomiting, and nausea
  • alkyl nitrites, which can cause increased heart rate or vomiting
  • butane, which can affect a person’s heart, leading to sudden death
  • propane, which can cause convulsions and loss of consciousness

As inhaling air duster fumes can be very dangerous, the substances in air dusters are not for inhalation. Air duster cans generally also have warnings on their labels to remind people to use them in well-ventilated areas.

Air dusters have various names that when retailers sell legally. These names include canned air or gas dusters.

There are also certain terms referring to the misuse of air dusters, such as:

  • huffing
  • dusting
  • can of sunshine
  • sunshine can

A person can use various methods to get “high” using air dusters. These methods all involve inhaling the gas that the air duster produces.

Methods in inhaling air duster gas include:

  • sniffing or snorting the gas through the nose
  • bagging, which involves spraying the gas into a plastic or paper bag and then breathing in the fumes
  • huffing, which involves saturating a rag with air duster gas and placing it over the nose or mouth to inhale

Air duster highs generally only last a few minutes. However, a person may inhale the gas repeatedly to maintain their high. They may repeat this process for several hours.

Inhaling air duster gas can cause individuals to experience various effects, such as:

  • lightheadedness
  • feeling less self-conscious
  • hallucinations
  • feeling less in control
  • slurred speech
  • inability to coordinate movements
  • euphoria
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • headache

Inhaling the gas from air dusters can be extremely dangerous. Air dusters contain various substances that can cause immediate harm when a person inhales them. Long-term use of air dusters can also cause serious damage to many parts of the body.

Misuse of air dusters can cause side effects, such as:

  • heart irregularities
  • unconsciousness
  • irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • irregular pulse
  • palpitations
  • inadequate circulation
  • abnormal kidney function
  • frostbite of the nasal cavity
  • breakdown of muscle tissue
  • liver damage
  • suffocation due to displacement of air inside the lungs
  • coma
  • convulsions
  • brain or nerve damage
  • bone marrow damage
  • choking on vomit after using an inhalant
  • sudden sniffing death, which is when a person dies suddenly after breathing in an inhalant due to cardiac arrest

The National Institution on Drug Abuse notes that, although unlikely, it is possible to develop an addiction to inhalants. Addiction to air dusters may occur if a person misuses them frequently.

If someone has an addiction to air dusters, they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using them. Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • sweating
  • mood changes
  • trouble sleeping

There can be certain signs that a person is misusing air dusters, such as:

  • having a large supply of air dusters in their house
  • stashes of plastic bags or rags
  • facial rashes or a constant sore throat
  • a chemical odor on their breath or clothes
  • changes in weight
  • behavior or mood changes

When a person develops an addiction to something, they cannot stop using it, despite the effect it has on their life. Signs that an individual may have a substance use disorder (SUD) include:

  • changing friends frequently
  • spending a lot of time alone
  • losing interest in favorite activities
  • not caring for themselves, such as not washing
  • feeling exhausted or sad
  • changes in appetite
  • mood swings
  • missing important appointments
  • having difficulties at work or school
  • having relationship issues
  • irregular sleeping habits

Misusing air dusters can be dangerous, no matter how often a person does it. If someone experiences any serious side effects after inhaling air duster gas, they should seek immediate medical attention.

If individuals feel like they are addicted to air dusters, they can speak to a healthcare professional. A doctor can help a person receive treatment for their addiction.

It can be beneficial for a person with a SUD to know that they have the support of their loved ones.

SAMHSA recommends that an individual’s loved ones use the following methods to let them know they are there to help them:

  • let them know they are loved and supported
  • express concern while letting them know they are in a safe place to share their experiences
  • talk about any family history of substance misuse if it is relevant
  • be patient and compassionate
  • help them find treatment resources
  • tell them that people can, and do, recover from SUDs

If a person would like help for their air duster misuse, they can speak with their healthcare professional. A doctor can discuss what treatment options might be best suitable.

Alternatively, individuals can use online resources to find treatment services in their area. SAMHSA provides the online tool to help people search for treatment options near them.

People use air dusters to clean hard-to-reach areas. However, a person can misuse air dusters to get high.

Inhaling the gas from an air duster can cause temporary feelings of euphoria. However, air dusters can contain various dangerous substances. When a person inhales them, these substances can cause serious side effects, such as organ damage, coma, or death.

Although unlikely, air dusters can be addictive. A person with an addiction to air dusters may show certain signs, such as mood changes or problems at work.

If someone has concerns about their air duster misuse, they can speak with their healthcare professional. Doctors can help find a suitable treatment.

If a person experiences any serious side effects when misusing air dusters, they should seek immediate medical attention.