December 30, 2013 in First Aid

The festive season is here!  Inevitably, this implies that there are lots of parties on a daily basis, groups of friends meeting up in the pubs or clubs, and all-round celebrations and merry-making!  Such social situations usually call for a drink or two or three…but what if someone misses their limit and drinks too much?  Do you know what to do?

Even if you do know what to do, it’s always a good idea to refresh your memory, so take a look at our advice below.

Why is excessive consumption of alcohol dangerous?

Alcohol – when taken in moderate amounts – will affect the brain and body, often resulting in a “warm fuzzy” feeling and a more “relaxed and confident” person.  This is because alcohol causes blood vessels near the surface of the skin to widen (dilate), resulting in increased blood flow to the skin, which in turn causes the “warm fuzzy” feeling.  Alcohol also impacts the brain by depressing the activity of the central nervous system, which results in being “relaxed and confident”.  The depression of the activity of the central nervous system also affects reaction times, which is one of the reasons why you should never drink and drive!

When alcohol is taken in excessive amounts, the above effects are amplified.  The “warm” feeling gives way to feeling cold as the body loses too much heat because of the increased blood flow to the skin.  The skin or certain parts of the body may start to feel numb and balance is also affected, due to the depression of the central nervous system.  Also, since the brain activity is influenced by alcohol, a change in behaviour is likely, such as aggression or doing things that are out of character.  Eventually, excessive alcohol consumption may result in severely impaired consciousness and possible unconsciousness.  At this point, it becomes alcohol poisoning.

What should you do?

If you come across someone who is suffering from alcohol poisoning, there are several things you can do (or even just extremely drunk).

  1. Cover the casualty with a coat or blanket to protect them from the cold.
  2. Check for any injuries, particularly head injuries.  The casualty may have lost their balance and hit their head on something.
  3. If the casualty is lying down or unconscious, turn them on their side.  In case they vomit, this position will avoid any possibility of choking on their own vomit.
  4. Keep an eye on them and make sure they’re breathing and have a pulse.  Keep monitoring until the casualty recovers or is placed in the care of a responsible person.  If their heart stops beating, begin CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) immediately and call 112 for emergency help.

If you have any doubt about the casualty’s condition, call 112 for emergency help.

What should you not do?

Some people have had a lot of experience with helping out in such situations.  However, sometimes their methods may differ from those recommended.

  1. Do not induce vomiting.
  2. Do not give hot stimulating drinks, such as coffee.  Alcohol and coffee both have a dehydrating effect, so if the casualty wants something to drink, give them some room temperature or lukewarm water.

Deborah Cefai
EFRU Rescuer