When to seek medical help
If you suspect alcohol poisoning, dial 999 immediately to request an ambulance.
While you’re waiting:
- try to keep them sitting up and awake
- give them water if they can drink it
- if they have passed out, lie them on their side in the recovery position and check they’re breathing properly
- keep them warm
- stay with them
Never leave a person alone to “sleep it off”.
The level of alcohol in a person’s blood can continue to rise for up to 30 to 40 minutes after their last drink.
This can cause their symptoms to suddenly become much more severe.
You also should not try to “sober them up” by giving them coffee or putting them under a cold shower, for example.
These methods will not help and may even be dangerous.
How alcohol poisoning is treated in hospital
In hospital, the person will be carefully monitored until the alcohol has left their system.
If treatment is required, this may include:
- inserting a tube into their mouth and windpipe (intubation) to open the airway, remove any blockages and help with breathing
- fitting an intravenous drip, which goes directly into a vein, to top up their water, blood sugar and vitamin levels
- fitting a catheter to their bladder to drain urine straight into a bag so they do not wet themselves
Dangers of alcohol poisoning
If a person is poisoned by alcohol, they could:
- stop breathing
- have a heart attack
- die by choking on their own vomit
- become severely dehydrated, which can cause permanent brain damage in extreme cases
- develop more severe hypothermia
- have fits (seizures) as a result of lowered blood sugar levels
Repeated vomiting and retching can lead to vomiting blood, caused by a torn blood vessel at the junction of the stomach and gullet.