The most severe outcome that alcohol poisoning may have on a person is irreversible brain damage or even death. It is important to be aware about the difference between alcohol poisoning and getting drunk. Impaired judgment, a hampered state of mind or loss of coordination are the usual symptoms of a person getting drunk. Alcohol poisoning, on the other hand, signifies a much more critical situation.
The condition mostly results from drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. In this condition, the consumption of alcohol is too much for the body to process it safely. When there is too much alcohol in the system, the body's involuntary actions such as breathing, heartbeat, and gad reflex begin to shut down.
Common symptoms include unconsciousness (passing out), low body temperature (hypothermia), pale skin, irregular or slow breathing, seizures, vomiting and confusion. The affected person may be conscious but unresponsive. The symptom of passing out indicates a more severe condition, as if the person cannot be roused, then there is a risk of death. Alcohol poisoning, with or without its usual symptoms, must receive immediate treatment.
How is Alcohol Poisoning Managed
It is most unlikely for the affected person to self-treat his condition. So others must come to help. On noticing any of the signs of alcohol poisoning, dial 911 immediately, and follow the below steps while the help arrives:
- do not let the person to go unconscious or be in a sleeping position
- hypothermia could occur due to an excessive amount of alcohol in the body that restricts the function of blood vessels. So it is a must to cover the affected person with warm blankets or a coat.
- intoxication increases the risk of getting choked on one's own vomit, especially when unconscious. To avoid choking, help the person lie sideways so as to open the airways, and prevent them from getting clogged. Vomiting, in a way, is considered effective in getting rid of the excess alcohol, before it gets absorbed.
- do not leave the person alone, and keep monitoring his/her symptoms
At the Hospital
# Once the patient is admitted in the hospital, doctors would start the treatment to manage breathing problems. This they may do by inserting a tube into the person's windpipe.
# Excessive sweating and vomiting generally result in dehydration of the body. So administration of fluids through a vein (intravenous), can help the body rehydrate and compensate for any possible fluid loss. Generally, glucose is administered as a treatment as it not only warms the body, but regulates the glucose level as well. With its help, the patient's water, blood sugar and vitamin levels could be restored.
# Incontinence could result from the condition, and to manage this, a catheter could be fitted to the person's bladder to drain urine. In most cases, doctors flush the patient's stomach with the help of a tube inserted into the nose or mouth. In some cases, kidney dialysis is also performed to get rid of the alcohol from the blood stream.
How Not to Treat Alcohol Poisoning
Needless to say, never let the person drink any more alcohol. Besides that, do not...
- give the person a cold shower, or advise so (could worsen hypothermia)
- offer coffee (increases the risk of dehydration)
- let the person to lie on back
- let the person sleep (it might end up in unconsciousness or coma in severe cases)
- allow the person to walk (it only makes situation worse)
When it comes to alcohol poisoning, prompt approach to seek medical help could be a life's saver in some cases. Sometimes, you could hesitate to get help because you may not be able to determine if the person is just drunk or actually has alcohol poisoning. But as they say, it is always wise to err on the side of caution. Take care!