Alcohol poisoning – sometimes called alcohol overdose – can be deadly. Without prompt diagnosis and treatment, a person who has too much alcohol in their system can experience a myriad of issues as body functions slow, and can lead to serious problems with vital functions including breathing, heart rate, and body temperature regulation.
In most cases, quick diagnosis and treatment offer the support needed to survive alcohol poisoning with few or no lasting effects. Going without treatment, though, can lead to serious complications or even death. One can die from alcohol poisoning.
Symptoms and Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
When someone consumes more alcohol than their body can handle, often because of binge drinking or chugging liquor, the alcohol’s depressant effects increase as more alcohol enters the bloodstream. In many cases, they may be unconscious, but their blood alcohol level continues to rise. They may not be able to tell medical personnel they were drinking, but health care providers should recognize symptoms that include:
- Mental confusion, disorientation, stupor
- Coma or varying stages of consciousness
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Low body temperature
- Bluish tint to their pale skin
When a doctor or other care provider observes these symptoms or has other reason to believe alcohol poisoning may be the problem, they need to order tests to confirm their diagnosis as soon as possible. Prompt treatment and supportive care are imperative for a positive outcome. Lack of the aforementioned care can lead one to die from alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol Poisoning Can Lead to Serious Complications and Death
If health care providers fail to monitor a patient having an alcohol overdose, their condition can quickly deteriorate. In some cases, a patient could suffer lifelong impairments or pass away within a few minutes. Some possible complications include:
Vomiting and Choking
Alcohol is an irritant, especially in large quantities. It is common for people who are drinking to vomit. This is true of those who suffer from alcohol poisoning as well. The danger of complications is much higher, though, because they are likely to be unconscious. In addition, alcohol overdose slows or stops the gag reflex making it extremely easy to choke and cause death.
The depressant qualities of alcohol can slow breathing, cause irregular breathing, or stop breathing altogether. If health care providers are not adequately monitoring the patient, oxygen can be cut off for an extended time. This can cause a hypoxic brain injury or death.
As someone continues to throw up, they become more and more dehydrated. Without medical intervention, vomiting can cause:
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Brain damage
Both dehydration and low blood sugar levels can cause seizures in patients with alcohol poisoning. Seizures can cause brain damage or even death.
In some cases, the patient’s body temperature can drop despite normal ambient temperatures. If it drops too low, cardiac arrest is a possibility.
Slowed or Irregular Heartbeat
Alcohol poisoning can interrupt the electrical impulses of the heart, slowing or stopping the pumping of the heart.
Unfortunately, many people pass away or suffer permanent brain damage each year because of alcohol poisoning. In most cases, they simply did not get the emergency medical care they needed soon enough. In other cases, though, their doctors and other health care professionals failed to recognize their symptoms, confirm a diagnosis, or offer adequate treatment to limit life-threatening complications.
Alcohol Poisoning Deaths Are Frequently Preventable
Even when someone drinks enough to affect their major body functions, adequate and supportive care is usually enough to ensure their body has time to process and flush the alcohol. If they are in a healthcare facility, a doctor or other health care provider should:
- Identify signs of alcohol poisoning
- Order blood or urine tests to check blood alcohol levels
- Monitor the patient for related complications, such as dehydration or low blood sugar
- Take steps to prevent choking and life-threatening breathing issues
- Push intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration
- Administer medications and supplements as necessary
Failure to do any or all of these steps may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Doctors and other health care providers must give each patient an accepted and adequate standard of care.
Newsome | Melton Will Review Your Alcohol Poisoning Malpractice Case for Free
The medical malpractice attorneys from Newsome | Melton can review your case and determine if the negligence of a health care professional caused or contributed to your loved one’s injuries. If we can find an unnecessary delay in diagnosing or treating your loved one, your family may be eligible to pursue compensation through a medical malpractice claim.
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