Symptoms of alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition that is caused to individuals as a result of consuming large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. This at times can be a deadly situation if the individual is not treated promptly.

Drinking a lot of alcohol in a short period of time can adversely affect the breathing, heart rate, body temperature, gag reflex and could lead to coma and at times even death.

Alcohol poisoning can also be a condition that can affect adults and children who accidently drink some household products that contains alcohol in it.

An individual with alcohol poisoning condition will need immediate medical attention. They cannot help themselves in such a situation. So it is the responsibility of the family or friends who are present with them to be alert and take them to the doctor immediately.

Some of the signs and symptoms of an individual suffering from alcohol poisoning include:

  • Breathing slowly which is less than 8 breaths in a minute
  • Irregular breathing which means there is a gap of more than 10 seconds between the breaths
  • Unusual breathing rhythm
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of co-ordination
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Pale or blue-tinged skin
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Unconscious
  • Unresponsive but conscious

When should one seek medical assistance?

If a person observes anyone with these above symptoms, then he/she must help taking the person to the doctor immediately.

It is not always necessary that one must wait to observe these signs before taking the person to the doctor. A person who is unconscious and cannot be awakened is at the risk of dying. So one must be alert in such situations and act quickly to help the patient get medical attention.

The doctor will obviously look for the visible signs and symptoms and at times will also order for blood tests and urine test to be done. This will help the doctor check the blood alcohol levels and identify other signs of alcohol poisoning like low blood sugar.

What are the causes?

One of the main causes of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking, which is a pattern of drinking heavily in a short period of time. One may have consumed a lot of alcohol before passing out. And when the person is unconscious or has stopped drinking also alcohol continues to be released from the belly and intestines to the bloodstream and this causes rise in the level of alcohol in the body.

Unlike any other food or drink which takes hours to get digested, alcohol is absorbed quite fast into the body. And it takes much longer for the body to get rid of the alcohol one has consumed. The more of alcohol one drinks in a shorter period of time, the more the chances of alcohol poisoning. Mixed drinks can consist of more than one serving of alcohol and this will take longer to metabolize.

What are the risk factors?

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing alcohol poisoning, which include;

  • Size and weight of the individual
  • Overall health
  • The time and quantity of food the person has eaten
  • Mixing of alcohol with some other drugs
  • Alcohol percentage in the drinks
  • Rate and amount of alcohol consumption
  • Tolerance level of the individual

What are the complications?

Some of the complications associated with alcohol poisoning include;

  • Choking – Excessive alcohol consumption can cause vomiting. Since this condition affects the gag reflex there is an increased risk of choking on vomit if the person has passed out.
  • Stopping to breath – If the person has accidentally inhaled vomit into the lungs it can interrupt with the breathing.
  • Dehydration – Vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and this can further cause low blood pressure and fast heart rate.
  • Seizures – The blood sugar level in the body can drop considerable and this can lead to seizures.
  • Hypothermia – The body temperature of the person will fall to very low levels and this can cause cardiac arrest.
  • Irregular heartbeat – Alcohol poisoning can lead to slow, irregular and even no heart beat.
  • Brain damage – It can cause brain damage that is irreversible.
  • Death – All the complications mentioned above if not attended to on time can lead to death.

What is the treatment?

The cure for alcohol poisoning is mainly supportive care while the body gets rid of the alcohol. This includes the following;

  • Attentively monitoring the condition of the patient
  • Prevention from breathing and choking problems
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Fluids provided through vein to avoid dehydration
  • Making use of vitamins and glucose

In cases, where adults and children have consumed methanol or isopropyl by mistake are at times treated by hemodialysis – which is a mechanical option of filtering the waste and toxins from the body.


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