Metal Fume Fever (Symptoms, Effects & Treatment)

metal fever

During the welding of certain metals, fumes containing freshly formed metal oxide are produced. In case of a breathe contact for a specific amount of time, a flu type infection or severe affliction can happen. This is called metal fume fever.

The fever in most of the conditions does not last for more than a day, however, repeated attacks may occur in lifespan.

Fume particles are usually smaller than the dust particles and remain suspended in air in the absence of ventilation system. Studies suggest that metal fever does not induce a permanent damage to any sense in the human body.

The metal oxides are formed of zinc and copper in usual cases but chances of other oxides, are always present depending upon the chemical nature and content of the material under consideration. 

The other names are Brass Shakes, Brass Founders Ague or Zinc Fume Fever.

The name brass founders’ ague’,  is used for a common relation of this fever to brass foundry workers. The boiling point of zinc is low as compared to other metal which is 907-degree centigrade.

Metal Fume effects

Metal Fume Fever Symptoms

In normal cases, the symptoms appear several hours after exposure and disappear within a day or some days. However, in case of cadmium, prolong illness can be expected and deaths have also been reported.  Cadmium is not used for the coating purposes anymore but it is still found in old installation.

Temperature rising, pain, nausea, dizziness, aches and chills are other normal symptoms.

The taste buds also get affected by and a metallic taste is developed in the mouth. The taste of food or cigarette can’t be felt and irritated throats conditions are possible.  

The Good News is; with a normal kind of contact with oxides, the person can easily come back next day to the work. However, in case of severe infection, 4 days are required by the body to fully recover from this short-term disease.

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Cause

The medical science is silent regarding the exact cause while there are no specific environmental parameters that could become its cause.

A medical theory in this regard says that this is actually an immune reaction when inhaled metal oxide fumes damage the cell lining of the respiratory system.

How is it diagnosed?

This is one of the difficult parts because symptoms vary from person to person. Sometimes, white blood cell count goes down and in some cases, the zinc content is increased in urine and blood.

The symptoms also resemble with other normal diseases which makes it difficult to predict through normal physical examination.

One of the ways to check this is through the patient history in the environment of metal oxide, work history or job nature etc.

Treatment

The primary cure technique is the bed rest and the use of normal medicine like aspirin for the headache.  The symptoms usually go away through the natural healing process of human body.

However, the exposure time determines the kind of reaction and if symptoms don’t go away, they could lead to serious illness. In this case, there should be no wait to contact the medical services or a family doctor. Do mention your work nature and kind of chemicals you work with.

Prevention

The best way is to follow these points;

  • PPE (Personal Protection Equipment): Complete implementation of International standards and safety codes for the workforce including oxygen inhalers and ventilation system. New helmets are available in the market with advance respiratory features to keep the fumes away from a welding personnel. Read our guide about Auto-darkening welding helmet.
  • Advance Training: The training of workers is essential. They should be educated properly regarding the reactive nature of chemicals and about extra care; they have to take while working in a particular metallic environment.  
  • Chemical Examination Report: Most of the time, the company does not care to get a pre-chemical analysis report before deploying the welding team or in case of customized work, the workers are not given any information regarding the chemical content present in the metals which eventually leads to illness. The serious issues like in case of cadmium oxide can easily be avoided through a predetermination of the chemical content.
  • Ventilation: During welding, the ventilation is the best way to avoid any hazardous fume of oxides in the air. The fume particles are smaller than dust and don’t settle easily. To clear the space from their contamination with the breathing air – a mechanized ventilation system should be installed.

In mechanical ventilation – a device is used to direct the movement of air by an aid of mechanic system such as a fan.

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