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About Fentanyl Ingestion

Can fentanyl be absorbed through the skin or by touching an item or surface where it's present?

Illicit fentanyl cannot be absorbed through the skin or by touching an item or surface where it is present. When in powder form, fentanyl and its analogs (including carfentanil and fluorofentanyl) cannot be absorbed through the skin. Dissolving the powder in a liquid does not change this property.  Wet objects do not pose an increased risk for an overdose caused by casual exposure. 

The one case in which fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin is with a special doctor-prescribed fentanyl skin patch, and even then, it takes hours of exposure.

Why is it important to dispel the myth that fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin?

It is important that we clarify and let everyone know that fentanyl cannot really be absorbed through the skin because people who have overdosed on fentanyl may have only minutes to live. Pausing or waiting for other people to arrive means that person might die. They need our help and it is safe to help them.

  • Breathing (Inhalation)
  • Eating (Ingestion)
  • Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with contaminated hands or gloves or when illicit drugs come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth directly (Mucosal)
  • Liquid illicit drugs may be absorbed by the skin (Dermal)
  • Being stuck by a needle (Percutaneous)


Signs of Child Ingestion of Fentanyl4

If you suspect that a child has ingested fentanyl, use naloxone if you have it, call 911 and seek emergency medical help immediately. 

Early signs of fentanyl ingestion might be hard to notice in young children. Drowsiness has been among the reported symptoms, and that could be misinterpreted as the child just being tired or sleepy. Other signs that the child may have ingested fentanyl include:

  • trouble breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
  • agitation
  • high body temperature
  • stiff muscles

fentanyl overdose ›  Avoid Accidental Fentanyl Ingestion ›

1. State Departments Issue Guidance Around Fentanyl Exposure. Accessed November 1, 2022.
2. Liam Connolly. Can fentanyl be absorbed through your skin? UC Davis Health. Published October 18, 2022. Accessed November 1, 2022.
3. CDC - Fentanyl: Emergency Responders at Risk - NIOSH Workplace Safety & Health Topics. Published February 11, 2020.
4. Commissioner O of the. Accidental Exposures to Fentanyl Patches Continue to Be Deadly to Children. FDA. Published online January 26, 2022.