Ethanol poisoning

Definition

Ethanol poisoning is caused by drinking too much alcohol.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or 1-800-222-1222 for a local poison control center.

Poisonous Ingredient

Ethanol

Where Found

Alcoholic beverages, including:

  • Beer
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Wine
  • Whiskey

Symptoms

Home Treatment

If you can wake an adult who has drank too much alcohol, move the person to a comfortable place to sleep off the effects. Make sure the person won't fall or get hurt.

Place the person on their side in case they throw up (vomit). DO NOT make the person throw up unless told to do so by a health care professional or Poison Control.

Check the person frequently to make sure their condition does not get worse.

If the person is not alert (unconscious) or only somewhat alert (semi-conscious), emergency assistance may be needed. When in doubt, call for medical help.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the drinks consumed (ingredients and strengths if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The patient may receive:

  • Breathing and airway support
  • Fluids by IV
  • Medicines to treat symptoms

Expectations (prognosis)

Survival over 24 hours past the drinking binge usually means the person will recover.

References

Goldfrank LR, ed. Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2011.

Revision

Last reviewed 1/30/2013 by Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

Disclaimers

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