Health and Wellness

Alcohol Poisoning

People who drink, have friends who drink or have children of any age, should know the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

  • Confusion, stupor
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
  • Irregular breathing
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Unconsciousness ("passing out")

It's not necessary for all of these symptoms to be present before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can't be roused is at risk of dying.

When to see a doctor

If someone is suspected of having alcohol poisoning — even if the classic signs and symptoms are not present— seek immediate medical care. In an emergency, follow these suggestions:

  • If the person is unconscious, breathing less than eight times a minute or has repeated, uncontrolled vomiting, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Keep in mind that even when someone is unconscious or has stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released into the bloodstream and the level of alcohol in the body continues to rise. Never assume that a person will "sleep off" alcohol poisoning.
  • If the person is conscious, call 800-222-1222, and you'll automatically be routed to your local poison control center. The staff at the poison control center or emergency call center can instruct you as to whether you should take the person directly to a hospital. All calls to poison control centers are confidential.
  • Be prepared to provide information. If known, be sure to tell hospital or emergency personnel the kind and amount of alcohol the person ingested, and when.
  • Don't leave an unconscious person alone. While waiting for help, don't try to make the person vomit. People who have alcohol poisoning have an impaired gag reflex and may choke on their own vomit or accidentally inhale (aspirate) vomit into their lungs, which could cause a fatal lung injury.
  • Taken from MayoClinic.com May 2010