Baby Accidentally Drank Beer (Is Just a Sip Dangerous?)

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Babies and small children can get into almost anything it seems in the span of a second, no matter how careful we are. So what happens if your baby has accidentally drunk some beer? How serious is it and how much does it take to hurt them?

If your baby has consumed more than a drop or two of beer, contact Poison Control immediately for assistance. Alcohol can be incredibly dangerous for young children as it can cause low blood sugar and affect their central nervous system; however, the ABV of most commercial beers is low enough that a small amount isn’t likely to harm your child.

Read on to see what amounts of alcohol will present a danger to young children as well as an alcohol content breakdown of the most popular beers.

Is it bad if a baby accidentally drinks beer?

Ideally, your baby would never drink even a drop of beer. However, as most parents know, accidents and mishaps can occur in the blink of the eye with little ones.

It’s unlikely that your child will have any ill effects if they sneak a sip of beer from an empty can or bottle, but you could be looking at trouble if they get a full gulp from a full one. How much alcohol your little one can “safely” tolerate will depend on how much they weigh.

Although you will certainly be dealing with an intoxicated or even alcohol poisoned baby if they drink less, 3 grams of alcohol per kilogram of your baby’s weight is where the consumption could turn fatal.

For instance, for a 20-pound baby, even a small amount of pure alcohol can be fatal. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean your baby drank just a little bit of beer – a typical 12-ounce bottle only contains about 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol your baby would need to drink about two full bottles to reach the 3g/kg limit.

Still, just because something is not fatal doesn’t mean it’s okay!

Can a sip of beer hurt a baby?

A small sip of beer is unlikely to hurt your child.

Most children will probably not like the taste of beer and hopefully not get past a sip anyway. While it is probably okay, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to young children consuming alcohol.

You can contact the Poison Control Center if there are any questions as to how much alcohol your baby has consumed.

What to do if baby accidentally drinks beer

If your baby accidentally drinks beer, your first course of action should be to contact Poison Control immediately by either the telephone hotline (1-800-222-1222) or via the online tool.

Poison control will have the following questions for you regarding the incident to determine if the amount ingested was poisonous:

  • The name of the beer
  • How much is missing
  • How long ago it happened
  • Child’s age and weight
  • Whether the child is showing any symptoms
  • A contact number for you

Having this information prepared will help the Poison Control Center determine whether the amount of beer your baby ingested is poisonous or not.

If it is determined that it was a dangerous amount, they will instruct you to head to the nearest emergency room for treatment. If the amount was not a poisonous amount, they will instruct you to monitor symptoms and let your doctor know if anything changes.

Why is alcohol bad for babies?

When adults consume alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream where it is carried to all parts of the body until the liver is able to metabolize it.

When this happens in young children and babies, the effects of alcohol can be disastrous because their bodies are not fully developed and cannot process it yet.

Alcohol can cause low blood sugar in small children which can cause complications such as seizures, coma, and sometimes death.

Drinking alcohol also affects the central nervous system. Children may vomit, breathing and heart rate may slow down, and blood pressure can drop resulting in loss of consciousness or even death.

How much alcohol is dangerous for baby

The amount of alcohol that is dangerous for your child will be based upon a few factors such as your child’s age and weight and the amount of alcohol by volume (ABV) in the drink consumed. The truth is, it only takes a small amount of alcohol to be harmful for babies.

Small amounts of alcohol can wreak havoc on small children’s blood alcohol levels (BAL). The BAL is a determination of how much ethanol concentration is in the blood. Each person’s BAL is unique as it is based upon body weight, metabolism, and the amount of alcohol consumed. Small children’s BAL is drastically increased by even small amounts of alcohol. 

The higher the ABV of the drink your child has consumed will also make certain types of alcohol more dangerous than others.

How much alcohol can be fatal for a baby

The lethal dose of alcohol is 3g/kg in children.

As the weight of your child increases so does the amount of alcohol needed to be fatal.

For instance, for a 20-pound baby, that would be sixty grams of pure alcohol. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean 60 grams of beer – a typical 12-ounce bottle only contains about 11.8 grams (or 0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol.

Signs of an alcohol overdose in babies

If your child has ingested alcohol and exhibits any of these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.

Signs of alcohol poisoning:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Pale skin or blue-tinged skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Becoming unconscious and unable to be awakened

Effect of alcohol on baby

Alcohol affects babies much more rapidly and severely than adults resulting in detrimental short-term and long-term consequences.

Short term effects:

  • Distorted vision, hearing, and concentration
  • Altered perceptions and emotions

Long term effects:

  • Cirrhosis and cancer of the liver
  • Loss of appetite
  • Serious vitamin deficiencies
  • Stomach ailments
  • Heart and central nervous system damage
  • Memory loss
  • Increased risk of impotence
  • High risk for overdosing

How much beer is safe for baby?

There is really no safe amount of beer for a baby.

The more your child weighs, the more alcohol they can tolerate. The lethal dose of alcohol for children is 3g/kg meaning if your child weighs 30 pounds their lethal dose of alcohol would be more than 3 ounces of pure alcohol.

So while you can’t determine how much is “safe” to consume, you can figure out what quantities are below the lethal dose.

Alcohol by volume (ABV)

The amount of alcohol by volume is another factor that determines how dangerous a particular beer is.

Each brand and type of beer has its own ABV. The higher the ABV is, the more pure alcohol (ethanol) the beverage contains.

A typical beer that is usually 12 ounces and has a 5% alcohol content contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol (or 0.6 ounces), but this will vary from beer to beer. A Budweiser Select 55 for instance, only has an ABV of 2.4% while a Bud Light Platinum has 6%.

Current federal laws do not require that the ABV be listed on the container so there may be some beers that have an unknown ABV.

Alcohol content in mass-produced beers

Beer (12 oz)ABV (%)Pure Alcohol Content (g)Amount that would be fatal for a 20 lb (9 kg) child (oz)Amount that would be fatal for a 30 lb (13.6kg) child (oz)Amount that would be fatal for a 40 lb (18.1 kg) child (oz)
Bud Light4.211.827.4641.4955.22
Coors Lite4.211.827.4641.4955.22
Miller Lite4.211.827.4641.4955.22
Budweiser51423.1434.9746.54
Michelob Ultra4.211.827.4641.4955.22
Corona Extra4.612.925.1237.9550.51
Modela Especial4.412.326.3439.8052.98
Natural Light4.211.827.4641.4955.22
Beer (12 oz)ABV (%)Pure Alcohol Content (g)Amount that would be fatal for a 20 lb (9 kg) child (oz)Amount that would be fatal for a 30 lb (13.6kg) child (oz)Amount that would be fatal for a 40 lb (18.1 kg) child (oz)
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale5.615.720.6431.1841.50
Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted IPA719.616.5324.9833.24
Russian River Pliny the Elder IPA822.414.4621.8629.09
Guinness Extra Stout5.615.720.6431.1841.50
Founders All Day IPA4.713.224.5537.0949.36

Home-brewed beer

Another option to consider that your child could potentially get ahold of is home-brewed beer. It can be harder to assess the ABV of this type of beer as it’s not mass-produced but done as a hobby.

Calculating the ABV of your home-brewed beer requires some math: ABV= (OG-FG) X 131.25.

Basically, alcohol by volume is equal to the original gravity (density before fermentation) minus the final gravity (density after fermentation), and the resulting number would then be multiplied by 131.25.

Another consideration as to the safety of home-brewed beers is the potential of wild yeast or outside bacteria making their way into the homebrews. Therefore any ingestion of this type of beer by young children would require a call to Poison Control.

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