CHARLOTTESVILLE — With the Christmas holidays approaching, doctors at the Blue Ridge Poison Control Center at University of Virginia Health are warning that excess alcohol consumption can lead to the spread of COVID-19.
Health experts says that high alcohol consumption can result in poor judgement and make it difficult to think clearly, leading to risky behaviors.
The more alcohol someone drinks, the more likely they are to forego COVID-19 safety precautions such as mask-wearing, avoiding large groups, and staying 6 feet apart from others.
Alcohol also reduces reaction time, balance, and coordination. This can lead to a fall or other accident which might be serious enough to require medical care.
Health Care facilities have implemented numerous measures to ensure that patients, staff, and visitors can remain safe from the virus. But the best protection of all is not to enter a facility in the first place unless it is absolutely necessary. Staying safe equals staying at home.
And it is a fallacy that believing alcohol will protect you from COVID-19. It will not disinfect your mouth, throat, or body.
In fact, the opposite is true. Drinking too much alcohol can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for germs, including the flu and COVID-19.
Excessive alcohol use may also lead to or worsen existing health problems. This includes mental health problems such as anxiety or depression, which may already be heightened during the pandemic by social isolation, financial worries, and more.
Having more alcohol present in the home increases the risk that children could get into it.
Teens and tweens stuck at home all day might be tempted to experiment with alcohol.
Even small amounts of alcohol could be dangerous for younger children.
“Our nurses become quickly concerned when they receive a call about a small child getting into alcohol,” says Dr. Jennifer Ross, pediatrician and medical toxicology fellow at the Blue Ridge Poison Center.
“Because of their small size, relatively little amounts of alcohol can cause dangerous health effects in children, such as sedation, slowed breathing, and low blood sugar levels.” Parents and caregivers are advised to keep alcohol stored up high, out of the sight and reach of little ones,” she said.
If you suspect someone has overdosed on alcohol, or that a child has swallowed any amount, call the Blue Ridge Poison Center right away for emergency medical advice: 1-800-222-1222. Do not try to make the person vomit and do not let an unconscious person “sleep it off.” Help is free and confidential.