What is alcohol, drug or poison ingestion?

Alcohol, Drug or Poison Ingestion
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Alcohol, drug, or poison ingestion: Overview

A person can become very sick, or die, from swallowing or using alcohol, drugs, or poisons.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person drinks a large amount of alcohol. Alcohol can stop nerve signals that control breathing. It can also stop the gag reflex that prevents choking. Alcohol poisoning is serious. It can lead to brain damage or death if it's not treated right away.

Drugs can be used by accident or on purpose. They can be swallowed, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin. Drugs include over-the-counter medicine (such as aspirin or acetaminophen) and prescription medicine. They also include vitamins and supplements. And they include illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

And poisons are all around us. They include household cleaners, cosmetics, houseplants, and garden chemicals.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

How can you care for your child who has ingested alcohol, drugs, or poison?

  • Follow your doctor's instructions about closely watching your child's health and behavior.


  • Keep all alcohol, drugs, and poisons out of sight. For example:
    • Do not take your medicines in front of your child because they may try to do what you do.
    • Never leave alcohol, medicines, or household products out when you are not in the room.
    • Guests may have medicines with them. Make sure that guests keep their bags out of the reach of your child.
    • Do not keep products like oven cleaner and dishwasher soap under the kitchen sink.
    • Keep products in the containers they came in. Keep the original labels on them.
    • Remove poisonous plants from your home.

Alcohol, drug, or poison ingestion in children: When to call

If you see your child swallow poison or you think that your child has swallowed some, stay calm. Call the Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Have the product, alcohol, or medicine container with you. Use it to tell the operator exactly what your child took. The poison control center can tell you what to do right away. Do not make your child vomit unless you are told to.

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child is confused or is very sleepy.
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child has a seizure.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new symptoms or is not acting normally.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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