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Alcohol poisoning

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Alcohol is a poison and can be lethal. Your body can’t function properly if too much alcohol is consumed in a short space of time because it can only process one unit of alcohol an hour.

It can:

  • Lower your blood sugar levels, so you could suffer seizures.
  • Lower the body’s temperature, which can lead to hypothermia.
  • Dehydrate you, which can cause permanent brain damage.
  • Affect the nerves that control your breathing and heartbeat, it can stop both.
  • Irritate the stomach which causes vomiting and it stops your gag reflex from working properly-you can choke on, or inhale, your own vomit into your lungs.

Look out for the signs of alcohol poisoning

There’s a very fine line – one minute a house guest could be stupidly drunk and the next become dangerously intoxicated. It’s vital you are aware of the signs of alcohol poisoning because a person suffering from this will be unable to help themselves.

Look out for:

  • Irregular or slow breathing (less than 8 breaths a minute)
  • Blue-tinged or pale skin.
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Stupor – when someone’s conscious but unresponsive
  • Unconsciousness – passing out
Glass of beer

Know what not to do

Acute alcohol poisoning can be very dangerous and the best intentions can make it worse. There are so many tales of people drinking to excess, so it is wise to know what not to do.

NEVER:

  • Let someone sleep it off – Alcohol continues to rise in the blood even when not drinking.
  • Give them coffee as alcohol dehydrates the body and so does coffee which can cause permanent brain damage.
  • Make them sick – they could choke on their vomit as their gag reflex won’t be working properly.
  • Walk them around – alcohol affects the body’s balance and this may cause accidents.
  • Give them a cold shower – this could cause hypothermia as alcohol lowers the body’s temperature and this will cause them to be colder than they already are.
  • Let them drink more alcohol – The amount in there system could be dangerously high.

Binge drinking is often the cause of alcohol poisoning, but not always. There are a number of factors that may affect this such as: how much you’ve eaten, how fast you’re drinking, body size and weight and any medication you might be taking.

This is why it is recommended that you follow unit guidelines as set by the Government (3-4 units for men or 2-3 a day for women). Don’t wait for all the symptoms to show before getting help. If you think someone might be suffering from alcohol poisoning dial 999 for an ambulance.

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