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Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning, or an alcohol overdose, is caused by drinking too much alcohol in a short period of time. When there are very high levels of alcohol in the body, critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate and body temperature can shut down, potentially leading to a coma and death.

Types of Alcohol

Alcohol in the form of ethanol is found in alcoholic beverages, hand sanitizers, mouthwash, cooking extracts, some medications and certain household products. Isopropyl alcohol is found in rubbing alcohol, lotions and some cleaning products. Methanol or ethylene glycol is often found in antifreeze, paints and solvents.

Call the 24-Hour Poison Help Line for Additional Support:


Children and Alcohol

Children who drink products that contain alcohol are at risk of alcohol poisoning. They can show symptoms quickly and require less alcohol than an adult due to their small size and weight. Children also are at risk of low blood sugar after drinking alcohol, which contributes to symptoms mentioned above.

Alcohol poisoning can be an emergency. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning and is unconscious or seizing, call 911 and seek medical help right away.

Preventing Alcohol Poisoning

  • The best way to prevent alcohol poisoning is to drink in moderation or not at all. For healthy adults, men should have no more than 1 to 2 drinks a day, and women shouldn’t drink more than 1 drink a day.
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of alcohol, including binge drinking. Evidence suggests that children who are warned about the dangers of alcohol by parents or those they are close with are less likely to start drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offers tips for talking with your teen about alcohol.
  • Alcohol poisoning can also occur when adults or children accidentally or intentionally drink household products that contain alcohol. Store all alcohol-containing products such as mouthwash, cooking extracts, medications and household products, up, away and out of sight. Keep the products in their original containers to avoid confusion as well.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages locked up and away.

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