Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

If you and your friends drink alcohol, it’s good to be aware of the signs of alcohol poisoning. You should watch for the following alcohol poisoning symptoms in your friends when they have been drinking:

  • Confusion.
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin.
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia).
  • Repeated, uncontrolled vomiting (try to keep a person who is vomiting sitting up, so they don’t choke; if they must lie down, keep their head turned to the side).
  • Slow breathing (less than 13 times per minute, or no breathing at all for periods of 8 seconds or more).
  • Seizures.
  • Loss of consciousness (if someone who has been drinking falls asleep and you can’t wake them, it may be alcohol poisoning; if you are with someone who is drunk and they fall asleep, you should wake them frequently to make sure they are not unconscious).
  • Alcohol poisoning can cause a person to go into a coma or it can cause death.


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Not all signs have to be present to indicate alcohol poisoning – for instance, loss of consciousness without any other signs can still mean a person has alcohol poisoning.

As you can see, it may be difficult to recognize signs of alcohol poisoning in yourself or to get yourself medical attention. If you are going to drink much alcohol, make sure your friends know the alcohol poisoning symptoms so they can look out for you.

If you notice signs of alcohol poisoning in a person, you need to get them medical help right away. Untreated, alcohol poisoning can result in death. Call 911 or get them to the nearest Emergency Room. You can also call your local poison control center for advice. Don’t leave a person with possible alcohol poisoning alone until medical help arrives.

Causes of Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

Your body can eliminate about one serving of alcohol per hour. One serving of alcohol is one 12-ounce can of beer, one 10-ounce wine cooler, one 4-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof hard alcohol. Some mixed drinks have more than one serving of alcohol in them. If you drink more than one serving of alcohol in an hour, your blood alcohol concentration level will rise, and the higher it gets, the more at risk you are for alcohol poisoning.

Binge drinking is the most common cause of alcohol poisoning - for instance, drinking five beers very quickly in the span of less than one hour. There are a number of factors that can affect your blood alcohol levels, including how strong the alcohol is that you are drinking, how quickly you consume it, and if you have any food in your stomach when you drink it.

Your blood alcohol concentration can continue to increase even after you are no longer drinking or after you’ve passed out. This is because the alcohol in your stomach will continue to be absorbed. Therefore you can develop signs of alcohol poisoning even after you’ve stopped drinking.

Treatment of Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

Alcohol poisoning is primarily treated with supportive care while the body rids itself of the alcohol. A person with alcohol poisoning symptoms is carefully monitored and their airway is maintained so they don’t choke or have trouble breathing. They may also be given oxygen to help them breathe. They are also given IV fluids to prevent dehydration.

If a person survives the first 24 hours, their prognosis is considered good. It should be understood, though, that alcohol poisoning is a very serious condition and can be fatal. Anyone with signs of alcohol poisoning needs medical attention right away.

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Related Information

Acute Alcohol Poisoning - Important facts about alcohol poisoning including how to prevent it.

Treatment For Alcohol Poisoning - Detailed information on how alcohol poisoning is treated, and why it is so important to get professional medical help. 

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