If your loved one or family member drinks an excessive amount of alcohol, how do you know if he or she is suffering from alcohol poisoning? Alcohol poisoning can be misunderstood, but make no mistake: It has the potential to be fatal if it isn’t treated immediately. That’s why it’s so important to understand what it is, how to spot it and how to help the person suffering from it. What Is Alcohol Poisoning? Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person intentionally, or sometimes unintentionally, drinks a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time. The sudden influx of alcohol into the bloodstream causes physiological reactions that may include a change in heart rate, temperature of the body and breathing. Violent vomiting may accompany alcohol poisoning, which leads to significant dehydration. In extreme cases, the body can completely shut down, ending in coma or even death. When Is It Alcohol Poisoning? It can be difficult to spot alcohol poisoning, because so many of the symptoms seem just like a “typical” hangover or binge-drinking episode. For instance, vomiting and sweating are not uncommon among alcoholics who don’t have alcohol poisoning. In general, though, it’s best to be overly cautious. If you’re concerned, there is probably a reason for the concern and you may want to seek medical attention. What to Do About Alcohol Poisoning? As soon as you suspect that alcohol poisoning has occurred, you should take the sufferer for emergency care or call an ambulance if they can’t walk. Don’t wait. The faster medical personnel can take charge of the situation, the better it will be. Plus, they can mitigate any additional symptoms that may not have occurred yet. If your loved one drinks a lot of alcohol and you don’t see him until the next morning, remember that you may still be able to see alcohol poisoning symptoms. Again, don’t hesitate to take him or her for urgent care — brain damage can result from untreated alcohol poisoning. What NOT to Do If You Suspect Alcohol Poisoning It can be tempting to simply assume that the alcoholic or person with alcohol poisoning just needs to “sleep it off.” However, if you think there’s any chance that your loved one is experiencing alcohol poisoning, do not look the other way. Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you allow a person to go to sleep without medical attention, he or she may never wake up. How to Avoid Alcohol Poisoning One of the best ways to avoid alcohol poisoning is to drink responsibly if you don’t have an addiction to alcohol. This means having one or two drinks over a long period of time. If you’re an alcoholic, you should abstain from drinking anything with alcohol, including medications that contain alcohol-based mixtures. Having alcohol poisoning may seem embarrassing, but that’s no reason not to get help. After receiving treatment, it may also be wise to get into counseling to avoid having it occur again. If you have questions about alcohol poisoning and how to prevent it, contact The Ranch PA for more information. (photo via) Disclaimer: The people shown in this photo are models and are used for illustrative purposes only.