Alcohol poisoning is a result of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. It is a dangerous and life-threatening medical emergency which must be taken care of immediately. For alcohol poisoning to be treated properly and successfully, people must know the signs and symptoms which are indicative of such excessive alcoholic intake and how to treat them.
See the Causes and Complications of Alcohol Poisoning
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
The following are signs to look out for in an individual who is suspected of ingesting large amounts of alcohol:
1. Slurred speech: When people drink alcohol and become intoxicated, they tend to become very loud and loquacious. As they drink increasingly larger amounts, they become quieter; and at the stage of alcohol poisoning, they find it difficult to talk.
2. Inability to walk: As the nerve centers in the brain are depressed by high concentrations of alcohol, the motor nerves which control the muscles do not function properly.
3. Vomiting: Alcohol in large amounts irritates the stomach and causes vomiting.
4. Confusion, stupor and unconsciousness: This is due to the fact that alcohol depresses nerve centers in the brain.
5. Slow breathing (about 8 breaths per minute or less) and irregular breathing: This is caused by the depressing effect that alcohol has on the respiratory centers in the brain.
6. Seizures: Excessive alcohol intake causes dehydration and the blood sugar level to fall (hypoglycemia) which leads to seizures.
7. Hypothermia: Hypothermia means low body temperature. The body temperature of the drinker is unusually low in alcohol poisoning.
8. Blue-tinged or pale skin color
Treatment of Alcohol Poisoning
In alcohol poisoning, it is best to get the sufferer to a hospital as soon as possible so that he or she gets professional help. The treatment given is supportive as the only way alcohol poisoning stops is when the alcohol is cleared from the body.
1. Monitor the patient carefully: If an individual is suspected of suffering from alcohol poisoning, he or she should not be left alone at any given time. As the person is usually vomiting, make sure that he or she does not choke on their own vomit.
2. Prevent breathing or choking problems: It is best to lay the person on his or her side (especially the left side) to prevent any vomit from being aspirated into the lungs or from choking the person.
3. Stomach pumping: This is done to remove any alcohol which has not yet been absorbed from the stomach.
4. Administration of fluids to prevent dehydration and hypoglycemia: Dehydration and hypoglycemia cause seizures which can lead to brain damage. If the person is still conscious, try to give water when he or she is not vomiting. Fluids are usually given intravenously (which is the best way) as sufferers of alcohol poisoning are usually unconscious. These fluids include sugar solutions which improve blood sugar level and prevent hypoglycemia.
5. Administration of Oxygen: Oxygen is given to combat the effect of slow and irregular breathing caused by alcohol poisoning.
6. Dialysis: Kidney dialysis is done to hasten the clearance of alcohol from the bloodstream.
For the causes of alcohol poisoning read the Causes and Complications of Alcohol Poisoning.