Alcohol Ingestion (Child)

Young children put many things in their mouths. Older children may consume substances out of curiosity. It's common for children to swallow alcohol by accident. 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 fast. 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 trouble breathing and flushed or pale skin. Alcohol reduces 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 or the low sugar.

A child may ingest alcohol when an alcoholic drink is left out by accident. But alcohol is also found in other liquids, such as:

  • Energy drinks

  • Mouthwashes

  • Some cold medicines

  • Hand sanitizers

  • Colognes and perfumes

  • Lotions

  • Some cleaning fluids

Small amounts of alcohol can cause symptoms in young children. Even inhaling rubbing alcohol can make a child sick.

Children who have consumed alcohol need to be treated right away. Glucose may be given intravenously (IV). Sometimes the contents of the stomach are taken out by using a tube. Children are watched until they get better. Some children may need more care. If neglect is suspected, child protective services may be told.


  • Know which products in your home contain alcohol.

  • Keep all products with alcohol out of your child’s reach. The best way to store these is to put them in locked cabinets. All products should be kept in their original, labeled containers.

  • Throw away unfinished alcoholic drinks. Don't leave them out on a counter.

  • Put all harmful products, including those containing alcohol, back into locked cabinets right after use.

  • Throw away used containers where your child cannot get them.

  • Teach your child the dangers of sampling any substance without your consent.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised.

Special note to parents

The National Poison Control Center phone number is 800-222-1222. Post it near your phone. Call Poison Control and 911 right away if you think your child has ingested alcohol.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing or slow, irregular breathing

  • Choking

  • Chest pain

  • Extreme drowsiness

  • Heavy bleeding or vomiting blood

  • Trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Seizure

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if your child has any of these:

  • Vomiting

  • Confusion

  • Giddiness

  • Slurred speech

  • Inability to walk normally or think clearly

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© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.