Alcohol poisoning - Alcohol is a poison and when you drink large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time, the levels of toxin in your blood become so dangerous that you are putting your life at risk.
Your body is only capable of processing one unit of alcohol an hour. If you drink a lot of alcohol in a short space of time, the concentration of alcohol in your blood can stop your body from working properly. The signs of alcohol poisoning can be difficult to notice as initially, they are similar to someone who is drunk. They may be confused, unable to coordinate, vomiting or sitting in a stupor. The step from being extremely drunk to suffering from alcohol poisoning can be a small one, but the difference is life-threatening, so it is important to recognise the symptoms and know what to do as you could be saving someone’s life.
What are the symptoms of alcohol poisoning?
Someone who is suffering from alcohol poisoning will experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Loss of coordination
- Irregular or slow breathing – less than 8 breaths a minute
- Repeated vomiting
- Blue-tinged or pale skin
- Being unresponsive or passing out
How much do you have to drink to get alcohol poisoning?
There is no minimum amount you need to drink to get alcohol poisoning. If you drink large amounts of alcohol in a short space of time you are putting yourself at risk, but it also depends on your body size, weight, your age, sex and how much food you have eaten.
Things you should NOT do if you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning
There are a number of widely held common beliefs about how to help someone who is drunk, which are NOT the right thing to do. It is important to understand why these things will not help.
- DO NOT give someone caffeine to sober them up – alcohol causes dehydration and so does caffeine, so if you give them coffee you are just exacerbating the situation and this could potentially cause long-term brain damage.
- DO NOT leave someone to sleep it off. If the levels of alcohol in their blood have reached a toxic level, this can cause their body to stop functioning properly.
- DO NOT make someone sick – alcohol slows down your body’s reflexes and therefore the gag reflex may not work properly, potentially causing them to choke on their own vomit.
- DO NOT give them a cold shower. Alcohol poisoning causes hypothermia (low body temperature) so a cold shower would just make this worse.
Things you should do if you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning.
- Call 999 – this is a medical emergency and their life is in danger. Even if you are unsure but think they might have alcohol poisoning, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
While you are waiting for medical assistance
- Try to keep them awake
- Give them water if they can drink it
- Keep them warm
- Put them in the recovery position if they are unconscious
- Stay with them and monitor their breathing.
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