Tell Me the Truth About How Much Alcohol You Drink

Do You Drink Alcohol?

If you do, it is important that your nurse knows exactly how much and how often. He or she doesn't need to know so that they can scold you about your habits. Yes, we do care that you may be permanently damaging your liver, but afterall, it is your liver and that's your business. What we do care about is that you may go into alcohol withdrawal while you are in our care. Someone who drinks alcohol on a daily basis, whether it be a large quantity or a small quantity, can potentially go into withdrawal if unable to drink in certain situations, for example, a hospital admission.

When a person withdraws from alcohol they may experience a wide range of symptoms. Some people are lucky enough not to experience any symptoms; however, this is not typical. What is typical is that in less than 12 hours an individual will most likely experience the following symptoms: tremors of the hands, headache, anxiety and agitation, sweating, trouble sleeping, nausea, and loss of appetite. These symptoms could begin to occur while you wait in an Emergency Room to be seen. They can easily be mistaken for flu-like symptoms, and treated incorrectly if your doctor or nurse is unaware that you drink alcohol daily.

Let's hypothetically say that you have come to the ER to be seen because you possibly had a stroke. You went through the entire evaluation process and now you will be admitted because you did in fact have a "mini-stroke". You are 13 hours into being at XYZ hospital and are now admitted to the unit where you will spend the next couple of days. You attributed the earlier symptoms of headache, nausea, anxiety, and loss of appetite to the fact that you have just had a stroke. The light now begins to hurt your eyes, sounds are increasingly louder, and you feel like bugs are crawling all over your skin. Earlier in the day, when the triage nurse asked if you drink alcohol, you told her "socially". But in fact, you have a 6 pack of beer every night to relax. That is none of her business though, because you are not an alcoholic.

What has just happened is that during your hospital stay you have started to withdraw from Alcohol. No one knows. Not even you. Your second day in the hospital you begin to have seizures. Suddenly, everything makes sense to one of the nurses and she approaches you about your typical alcohol consumption. After she explains to you that alcohol withdrawal can cause seizures and may in fact kill you, you come clean about your daily 6 pack that you have been drinking for 15 years.

Had the nurse not recognized the combined symptoms that you had been experiencing, you could have progressed to visual hallucinations, a rapid heart beat, and confusion.

Alcohol withdrawal is deadly if left untreated. Amount of alcohol typically consumed is one of the more important questions that a nurse will ask you. For your own safety, please always answer truthfully so that we can keep you healthy and safe.

Consider this information for family members as well. If you have a loved one (like pap who loves his shot of whiskey every night) who is in the hospital, ensure their safety by sharing this precious information with the hospital staff.

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