Would You Recognize the Signs of Alcohol Poisoning?

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Christmas Cheer!

Excessive drinking can be dangerous for everyone’s health – not just the person drinking. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve had to care for someone who had too much to drink, you know what it feels like to be concerned about their health, what they consumed and whether they should be brought to the emergency room. This is a big responsibility. Or, consider the very real danger of someone driving on the roads or taking care of their children while intoxicated. Drinking is hazardous!

Unfortunately, we don’t always take drunk behavior seriously in our society. Some people think it’s funny to watch people who are drunk. Some think it’s funny to watch people pass out. But there is nothing funny about a person who chokes on their own vomit or stops breathing.

Sadly, not enough people know the dangers of alcohol poisoning or when they should seek medical attention. Many people who lost a friend or family member to alcohol poisoning admit that they wished they would have sought medical attention earlier. Many end up feeling responsible for the tragedies that followed because they didn’t pick up the phone.

Although it may seem obvious, would YOU recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning? What if your husband came home intoxicated after a night out with the guys and you were in bed sleeping. Would you know what was happening? Or, what if your college roommate came home in the middle of the night and passed out. Would you get out of bed to check on their condition? And, even if you’re aware of how intoxicated someone is, when do you draw the line between someone who is very drunk and someone who requires medical attention?

How Alcohol Affects the Body

Alcohol is a poison in large quantities. If a person drinks a lot in a short amount of time, it can interfere with the body’s ability to function properly. This is why it’s recommended to only drink one unit of alcohol per hour. Here are some of the ways that alcohol affects the body.

  • Slows down brain functioning
  • Impairs coordination and balance
  • Irritates the stomach
  • Affects the nerves
  • Causes dehydration
  • Lowers the body’s temperature
  • Lowers blood sugar levels

The more someone drinks, the more effect the alcohol will have on the body. If these symptoms persist, alcohol could actually poison the body and lead to brain damage, hypothermia, seizures or death. Other complications can occur as well. The person could vomit while sleeping, and this could lead to choking. The nerves could interfere with heart or breathing patterns. Also, we can’t ignore the dangerous behaviors that are tied to alcohol, such as drowning, falling, violence and other fatal accidents.

How Do You Know When Enough is Enough?

There’s a fine line between being very drunk and suffering from alcohol poisoning. The trouble is that you can’t be of help to yourself. So, how do you know when that line has been crossed and someone is suffering from acute alcohol poisoning?

Take note of these symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Irregular or slowed breathing (less than 8 breaths per minute)
  • Blue-tinged or pale skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Unconsciousness

What are Some Things to Avoid When Trying to Help Someone?

Alcohol poisoning is dangerous. It kills. And, your best intentions to help your friend could make things worse. Leaving someone to sleep it off or throwing them in a cold shower, for instance, is not going to do your friend any favors. Here are a few things you should NEVER do.

  • Let them ‘sleep it off.’ Alcohol levels can continue to rise in the body.
  • Give them coffee. Coffee further dehydrates the body.
  • Encourage them to be sick. They could choke on their vomit.
  • Walk them around. Alcohol interferes with balance and coordination. Accidents can happen.
  • Put them in a cold shower. This will lower their body temperature more, possibly leading to hypothermia.

How Can You Help?

Binge drinking typically is the cause of alcohol poisoning, but it all depends on the person, their age, weight, gender and how fast they drank. If you think that a friend may be suffering from alcohol poisoning, get them help. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and if anything, it will teach them that you take binge drinking seriously. While you wait for help, here are a few things you SHOULD do.

  • Try to keep the person awake and sitting up.
  • Offer water if they can drink it.
  • Lie them on their side in the recovery position if they’ve passed out.
  • Keep them warm.
  • Stay with them and monitor their symptoms.

If the person is diagnosed with acute alcohol poisoning, they will be monitored closely in the hospital until they are cleared to go home. More serious patients may receive a tube in their windpipe to help them breathe, get an IV to replenish their body or have their stomach pumped.

Alcohol poisoning is very real, and it can happen to anyone. Share this information with friends and family so that they, too, can be aware of the dangers of alcohol poisoning.