Fentanyl Exposure for EMS Provider — August 30, 2018

Fentanyl Exposure for EMS Provider — August 30, 2018

Fentanyl Exposure for EMS Provider — August 30, 2018

Fentanyl Exposure for EMS Provider — August 30, 2018 150 150 Emergency Medical Services Agency

Fentanyl use as a drug of abuse has increased in the United States.  EMS providers are increasingly likely to encounter fentanyl in the line of duty.

Facts to know:

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more potent than heroin or morphine
  • Fentanyl can be present in many forms (e.g. tablet, capsule, powder, rocks, solutions)
  • Inhalation of fentanyl as an airborne powder is the most likely exposure route that would lead to harmful effects, but it is less likely to occur than skin contact.
  • Incidental skin contact is not expected to lead to harmful effects if the contaminated skin is promptly washed off with soap and water.

Signs and symptoms of fentanyl exposure include:

  • Respiratory Depression
  • Drowsiness or Unresponsiveness
  • Constricted or Pinpoint Pupils


  • PPE is effective in decreasing the risk of harmful effects from fentanyl exposure
    • Wear gloves to prevent skin exposure
    • NIOSH-approved respirators (“masks”) decrease the risk of inhalation exposure
    • Eye protection can prevent mucous membrane exposure

If exposure occurs:

  • Do not touch your eyes, mouth, nose or any skin after touching a potentially contaminated surface
  • Wash skin thoroughly with soap and water; Do NOT use hand sanitizers as they may enhance absorption through the skin
  • If you suspect clothing contamination, remove them via standard decontamination procedures

If an EMS responder exhibits signs or symptoms of fentanyl exposure:

  • Move away from the source and call for assistance
  • Administer naloxone per departmental protocols
  • Perform rescue breathing/airway management as needed
  • Administer CPR if indicated

US Customs and Border Protection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Yc9lSaSKls

Safety Recommendations for First Responders Handout:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/Final%20STANDARD%20size%20of%20Fentanyl%20Safety%20Recommendations%20for%20First%20Respond….pdf