This article is going to discuss what does ETOH mean in nursing.

Because we know how hard and sometimes annoying medical and nursing abbreviations can be.

What Does ETOH Stand for in Nursing?

ETOH is short for ethanol or ethyl alcohol. In other words alcohol.

You see there are several different kinds of alcohol (more on that below). All alcohols have the elements Oxygen (O) and Hydrogen (H).

I know what you’re thinking.

It’s chemistry all over again. You probably thought you wouldn’t have to deal with chemistry in nursing, but you do. Actually more often than you realize.

Alright, where was I?

Scientists name alcohol based on the number of carbon molecules they have.

So in the case of ethanol (which is the alcohol in alcoholic beverages, i.e., beer, wine, etc.), it has two carbon molecules.

Scientists name chemical compounds with two carbon molecules with the prefix “ethyl.”

That’s pretty much where you get the name “ethanol” or “ethyl alcohol.” Ethanol or ethyl alcohol is abbreviated to ETOH.

You know how we like are abbreviations in healthcare.

Does Abbreviating ETOH Serve Any Purpose?

The abbreviation does serve some purposes.

For starters, I really do think in healthcare we just like having abbreviations, especially for longer words that come up a lot.

Alcohol in healthcare definitely comes up a lot so an abbreviation for ethanol would make writing notes easier.

A standardized abbreviation makes it, so nurses and other medical professionals don’t start making up their own abbreviations.

You would think this doesn’t happen, but it really does happen a lot, and it can cause confusion.

Because a non-standardized abbreviation that one person looks at and it makes sense to them might not to someone else.

Hence standardizing abbreviations for certain terms.

Other Kinds of Alcohol

So I mentioned above that ethanol is just one kind of alcohol. You might be thinking to yourself…

“what other kinds of alcohol is there?”

Several for starters there’s rubbing alcohol or more “scientifically” known as…

Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is named by scientists as isopropyl alcohol.

Like ethanol, it’s based on its molecular formation (source). Isopropyl alcohol chemical formula is CH3CHOHCH3.

Isopropyl Alcohol has many uses. Some of its uses are cleaning, sterilizing and disinfecting. Here’s a quick video on some of its uses.

Methyl Alcohol

Methyl Alcohol is also called methanol or wood alcohol. You see this primarily used for industrial purposes.

Example paint remover, photocopier developer and so forth (source).

ETOH Consumption

Alcohol is typically consumed by people in alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, liquor).

The amount of alcohol found in each beverage can vary significantly based on the alcoholic drink they are consuming and what state the drink is sold in.

Many U.S. states have restrictions on the amount of alcohol that can be present in various types of alcoholic beverages.

As a general rule of thumb. Spirits and liquor can have upwards of 60%+ alcohol content.

Wine can have upwards of almost 20% alcohol content. While your standard beer has about 6-8%. Craft brewed beers which have become more popular as of late can contain up to 15% alcohol (source).

For everyone drinking alcohol, it’s recommended to drink responsibly.

When drinking alcohol food intake should really be considered.

The reason is food, especially foods high in protein, slow the level of alcohol absorption. As a result, it will delay the rate to intoxication.

As a general rule of thumb, the liver can metabolize about one “standard” drink in a 60-minute time frame.

That’s the reason why the usual recommendation is to stick with 1 drink per hour.

Drinking more than that could lead to overwhelming your liver. Overwhelming your liver can lead to serious liver issues such as cirrhosis.

Effects of Alcohol on the Body

As your blood alcohol content rises (BAC), and you start becoming intoxicated it can have some severe effects on your body. Some of the impacts of an elevated BAC is:

  • Flushing of the skin
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty with coordination (think trying to walk in a straight line intoxicated)
  • Sleepiness
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Vomiting

In extreme cases of intoxication, alcohol poisoning could set in. Those symptoms could be:

  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Memory Loss
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

What is Blood Alcohol Level (BAC)

I mentioned BAC above, but you might be wondering what it is. Blood alcohol level or “BAC” is the measure of the amount of alcohol in your blood stream.

So for example, if you say…

“John has a BAC of .2 it means that .2% of his bloodstream is made up of alcohol. To give you an idea.

BAC Level

  • .020 – Light drinkers start feeling alcohol’s effect
  • .060 – Impairment of judgment happens
  • .100 – Impairment of reaction time and control
  • .150 – Impairment of balance

(You can check out the full and detailed list of BAC levels and their effects here)

BAC levels affect people differently and at different levels. Based on whether your male or female, your weight and how regularly you drink helps determine how alcohol will affect you at different levels.

Alcohol Abuse

Many people struggle with alcohol abuse, and unfortunately, only about 10% get the help they need. Unfortunately, as nurses, you’re going to see that pattern a lot in the hospital.

Your patients who struggle with mental health illness will be more likely to develop alcohol abuse.

It’s important to note some mental health problems are exacerbated by too much alcohol (source).

Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Treatment for alcohol abuse is a serious thing, typically requiring the help of trained medical professionals. Quitting abruptly can result in

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Excessive sweating

There are also medications and treatment facility to deal with alcohol abuse.

Anybody considering treatment for alcohol abuse should seek the advice of a trained medical professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Normal Blood Alcohol Level

Blood alcohol level can be measured in several different ways. Alcohol level can be measured via blood, urine, saliva or using a breath test.

A normal alcohol level could read as “0” “negative” “No alcohol detected.”

This assumes that the person being tested has not been drinking. Therefore, there is no alcohol in the body.


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I hope you found this article helpful in understanding what etoh means in nursing.

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