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Alcohol Ingestion (Infant/Toddler, Child)

Young children put everything in their mouths. Older children may ingest substances out of curiosity. It is not uncommon for children to accidentally swallow a liquid containing alcohol. But even a small amount of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in children. This can result in serious illness and sometimes death.

Children’s bodies absorb alcohol rapidly. This can occur in less than 30 minutes. Alcohol affects the central nervous system. Symptoms can include confusion, vomiting, and seizures. The child may have difficulty breathing and flushed or pale skin. Alcohol impairs the gag reflex. This can cause choking. Alcohol may also cause low blood sugar in children. This can result in a coma from the alcohol and/or the low sugar.

Ingestion may occur when alcoholic drinks are accidentally left out. But alcohol is also found in other liquids. Mouthwashes, some cold medicines, and hand sanitizers contain alcohol. So do colognes, perfumes, lotions, and some cleaning fluids. Small amounts of alcohol can cause symptoms in young children; even inhaling rubbing alcohol can cause illness.

Alcohol ingestion in children needs to be treated immediately. Glucose may be given intravenously (by IV). Sometimes a tube is inserted into the stomach to remove the contents of the stomach. Children are observed until they recover. Some children may need to be stay in the hospital for evaluation. If there is evidence of neglect, child protective services may be notified.

Preventing Alcohol Ingestion:

  1. Know what products in your home contain alcohol.

  2. Keep all alcoholic drinks and other liquids containing alcohol on a high shelf, out of your child’s reach. Preferably, store them in locked cabinets. All liquids should be kept in their original, labeled containers.

  3. Throw away unfinished alcoholic drinks. Avoid leaving them out on a counter. Return all liquids to locked cabinets immediately after use.

  4. Discard used containers where your child will not find them.

  5. Teach your child the dangers of sampling any substance without your permission.

Follow Up

as advised by the doctor or our staff.

Special Notes To Parents:

The National Poison Control Centerphone number is 800-222-1222. Post it near your phone. Call Poison Control and 911 immediately if you suspect your child has ingested any liquid containing alcohol.

Get Emergency Medical Attention

if your child has any of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Choking or vomiting

  • Confusion or seizures

  • Giddiness, slurred speech, or inability to walk normally or think clearly