First Aid Training - Alcohol poisoning


Alcohol (chemical name, ethanol) is a drug that depresses the activity of the central nervous system - in particular, the brain.

Prolonged or excessive intake can severely impair all physical and mental functions, and the person may sink into deep unconsciousness.

There are several risks to the casualty from alcohol poisoning:

  • An unconscious casualty risks inhaling and choking on vomit.
  • Alcohol widens (dilates) the blood vessels. This means that the person loses heat, and hypothermia may develop.
  • A casualty who smells of alcohol may be misdiagnosed and not receive appropriate treatment for an underlying cause of unconsciousness, such as a head injury, stroke, or heart attack.

Recognition features

There may be:

  • A strong smell of alcohol.
  • Empty bottles or cans.
  • Impaired consciousness: the casualty may respond if roused, but will quickly relapse.
  • Flushed and moist face.
  • Deep, noisy breathing.
  • Full, bounding pulse.
  • Unconsciousness.

In the later stages of unconsciousness:

  • Dry, bloated appearance to the face.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Weak, rapid pulse.
  • Dilated pupils that react poorly to light.


Your aims:

  • To maintain an open airway.
  • To assess for other conditions.
  • To seek medical help if necessary

If the casualty is conscious:

  • Cover a casualty with a coat or blanket to protect them from the cold.
  • Assess the casualty for any injuries, especially head injuries, or other medical conditions.
  • Monitor and record vital signs - level of response, pulse and breathing - until the casualty recovers or is placed in the care of a responsible person.

If the casualty becomes unconscious:

  • Open the airway and check breathing.
  • Be prepared to give chest compressions and rescue breaths if necessary.
  • Place them into the recovary position if the casualty is unconscious but breathing normally.
  • Dial 999 for an ambulance.

DO NOT induce vomiting.

UK First Aid at Work Training Courses