Today the world learns that Amy Winehouse’s death was caused by alcohol poisoning. Unfortunately, this happens far too often. About 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning (also known as an alcohol overdose) are reported each year in the United States, and approximately once per week, someone dies from this preventable medical condition.
Identifying the symptoms of alcohol poisoning and understanding the causes of a toxic reaction and responding appropriately to such a circumstance, however, can help avoid a fatal alcohol overdose.
What are the symptoms of alcohol poisoning?
- Confusion, stupor
- Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
- Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
- Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Unconsciousness (“passing out”), and can’t be roused
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 it’s time to call 911
If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning — even if you don’t see the classic signs and symptoms — 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 (in the U.S.), 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. (Put this number in your call phone NOW)
- Be prepared to provide information. If you know, be sure to tell hospital or emergency personnel the kind and amount of alcohol the person drank, and when. If you or the victim are underage, don’t hesitate because of your age.
- Don’t leave an unconscious person alone.While waiting for help, don’t try to make the person vomit. Alcohol poisoning affects the way your gag reflex works. That means someone with alcohol poisoning may choke on his or her own vomit or accidentally inhale (aspirate) vomit into the lungs, which could cause a fatal lung injury.
So when another person asks you what to do in the event of alcohol overdose, the best answer is this: “seek immediate medical assistance by calling 911.” .
Learning how to identify alcohol poisoning symptoms and comprehending the causes of a toxic reaction and responding appropriately to such a circumstance, however, can help avoid a fatal overdose. When combined with other drugs, legal or illegal, alcohol accounts for about 33% of all drug overdoses in the United States.
© 2011 Amy Bittinger Kunkle, All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author or Clarity Digital Group LLC d/b/a knotmove.com
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