If someone passes out from drinking too much, you can help by positioning them so they will not choke on their vomit. The bacchus maneuver below is a position to put someone in while you wait for medical personnel to arrive. It is NOT something to use and then leave someone hoping they will be okay. Anytime you are using the Bacchus Maneuver, you should also be calling 911.
Do not use the Bacchus Maneuver or try to adjust someone who has fallen and may have sustained a spinal cord injury. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.
View the Bacchus Maneuver steps below.
Raise the arm that is closest to you above their head. Prepare to roll them toward you.
Gently roll them toward you, guarding their head from hitting the floor. The head should rest in front of the arm, not on it.
Tilt the head up to maintain airway. Tuck their nearest hand under the cheek to help maintain head tilt and raise the face off the floor. CHECK ON THEM OFTEN.
What about Backpacking?
You may have heard of 'Backpacking' or 'Jansporting', when a person puts a backpack on someone to prevent them from rolling over on their back and choking on their own vomit. Unfortunately this is NOT an effective way to prevent choking and can even be dangerous. Why?
- The most important thing to prevent choking is keeping the airway open. A backpack may prevent someone from rolling over on their back, but it does not necessarily mean that their head is placed in a way that maintains an open airway.
- If a backpack is placed on someone who is too intoxicated, it is likely they will not know they have it on when they wake up. When they try to stand, this may cause them to fall or fumble which increases risk of head injury.
- While this seems like an easy solution, backpacking can encourage a false sense of safety in which one forgets or neglects to monitor the person. Even if the intoxicated person is in a position that prevents them from choking, it does not mean they aren't at risk for other medical emergencies related to alcohol poisoning.
The Bottom Line
If a person is intoxicated enough that they are passed out and you are concerned about them choking on their own vomit, then you should not leave them alone and immediately call 911 to have them medically assessed.