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Alcohol Poisoning – When Is Enough Too Much?

With the 2015 New Year’s Eve just around the corner, there will undoubtably be many parties without a shortage of alcohol. For most people this means a few drinks with good friends and or loved ones who want to usher in the new year together. For others, a few drinks lower inhibitions leading them to go over-board and drink a few too many. Often this results in the need to sleep off the hang-over the next day. Yet for others, going over-board can lead to alcohol toxicity and poisoning. This can occur in all age groups including young children who finish off unattended alcoholic beverages.

Ethanol, chemical formula is CH2 CH3 OH, is a 2-carbon–chain alcohol. It is ubiquitous throughout the world and is a leading cause of morbidity across cultures. Ethanol is the most common psychoactive drug used by children and adolescents in the United States and is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the world.

Alcohol toxicity presents differently in different age groups. Intoxication in infants and toddlers is significantly different from that of adolescents and adults. Ethanol ingestion and intoxication can lead to very low blood sugar in infants and young children. Ethanol has a sedative effect and can cause central nervous system depression and lead to respiratory depression and low blood oxygen.

Young children often present to emergency rooms after drinking discarded alcoholic beverages left within their reach during and after parties or after ingesting a fluid that contains ethanol.

In older children and adolescents, ethanol intoxication causes CNS depression, leading to respiratory depression, but hypoglycemia is less common in this group.

Children and underage drinkers will often deny alcohol consumption, making diagnosis difficult.

If you have a young child who you suspect has drank alcohol, it is important to tell the emergency department to check their blood glucose.

Take the quiz below to knowledge on alcohol to see how much you actually know about the drug.

Test Your Knowledge On Alcohol Consumption

Do you know the signs of alcohol poisoning?