What should I do if I see someone with symptoms of alcohol poisoning?

If someone shows symptoms of alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. While waiting for paramedics to arrive:

  • Stay with the person, even if they are conscious and talking. Although they might have stopped drinking, any alcohol remaining in their stomach will eventually enter the bloodstream, and their condition may worsen.
  • Communicate with the person. Let them know what you’re doing to help. Otherwise, they might react aggressively.
  • Keep the person awake and sitting if possible.
  • Coax the person to sip water, if they are conscious.
  • Cover the person with a warm blanket. Alcohol poisoning will likely make them feel cold.
  • Turn the person gently onto their side, if they are unconscious. That way, if they vomit, they won’t choke. Place a pillow in the small of their back to keep them on their side.
  • Prepare to tell paramedics whatever you can about the person, including how much they drank.

What should I NOT do if I see someone with symptoms of alcohol poisoning?

When helping someone showing signs of alcohol poisoning:

  • Don’t give the person a cold shower. It might cause hypothermia.
  • Don’t offer hot coffee. Caffeine can increase dehydration.
  • Don’t feed the person. Food might make him or her choke.
  • Don’t help or encourage the person to “walk it off.” He or she could fall.
  • Don’t give medication. It might worsen the person’s condition.
  • Don’t induce vomiting. The person might gag.

How do medical professionals treat alcohol poisoning?

At the hospital, medical staff have several options for treating alcohol poisoning, including the following:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids containing vitamins and glucose to stop dehydration and increase blood sugar
  • Oxygen therapy or the insertion of a tracheal tube into the windpipe for patients who are having trouble breathing
  • Flushing the stomach with a nasogastric tube to clear toxins from the body
  • Hemodialysis, which removes toxins from the blood

In life-threatening cases, medical staff might pump the stomach with a nasogastric tube to suction out any alcohol.

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