Alcohol Poisoning

On this edition of the we look at the problem of Alcohol poisoning and the first aid treatments needed. See the website for more information.

Having a drink in itself is not usually a problem but when taken in excess it can lead to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol has a chemical name of ethanol, which is a drug that depresses the activity of the central nervous system and in particular, the brain.

Alcohol comes in many forms and strengths from beers or wines to spirits and medical alcohol.

As someone drinks, the effects start to take effect in the person and can cause personality changes, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and tiredness. An excessive or prolonged consumption can severely impair all physical and mental functions, and the person may sink into deep unconsciousness which can be difficult to wake them from. This is where is it getting a serious problem as in certain circumstances can lead to death.

The risks from alcohol poisoning include:

An unconscious casualty risks inhaling and choking on vomit
Alcohol widens or dilates the blood vessels. This means that the person loses heat, and hypothermia may develop
And a casualty who smells of alcohol may be misdiagnosed and not receive appropriate treatment for an underlying cause of unconsciousness, such as a head injury, stroke, or heart attack.

When you come across a person there may be a strong smell of alcohol and other things near them like empty bottles, cans or they may be in a pub or club.
When you try to talk to them they may not respond and they may look flushed and their breathing may be deep and noisy. If you can check their pulse it may be full and bounding and they may be difficult to wake or get any response from them.
As time passes their breathing will become shallow and the pulse becomes weak and rapid. Their pupils will become dilated and not react very well to light.

If you suspect alcohol poisoning, try to put them in the recovery position and keep the airway open to allow vomit to pass out without causing choking. Get emergency medical help and contact he Police incase they or people around them become violent.

Try and keep them warm by placing a coat or blanket over them and monitor their vital signs to ensure that they do not stop breathing when you would need to start CPR.

DO NOT induce vomiting but if they are sick ensure that you avoid coming into contact with their the vomit and turn them on their side to ensure that it does does not block their airway.