NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The first full weekend of Carnival parades turned into a hospital visit for people drinking too much alcohol along the parade route. Emergency room beds at Touro Infirmary quickly started filling up.
"You walk for a morning shift that starts at 6 and you are almost completely full. We had a 40 percent increase in our alcohol-related visit to the ER this past weekend," said Dr. Charlane Liles.
Dr. Liles said patients were admitted at different levels of intoxication. She said some couldn't stop vomiting while others were passed out and barely breathing.
"The sad thing is that this happens all the time in various stages. Your friends see you vomit, and they think you're ok to the point you vomit too much and your sugar drops. No one knows it, and everyone else continues to drink. Then you have a seizure and you die. I have personally had to make those phone calls to parents, and it's one of the worst things in the world," Liles said.
Dr. Liles says it's important for people to realize too much alcohol can kill.
She says often times, underage drinkers become caught up in the carnival fun, and before long, they've gone too far.
"Their friends drive them in and they say, 'Here he is, we can't wake him up, what do we do?' And those are sometimes the scary things that happen all over the city during Mardi Gras," Liles said.
Everyone has a tolerance level when it comes to alcohol, and doctors say there's a difference between being legally intoxicated and clinically impaired.
"An average daily drink for a female is one drink in a day. An average daily drink for a male is two drinks a day. If you have someone who drinks every day, an alcohol level of 100 might not affect them at all. A college student who just came to Mardi Gras and decides to go on a drinking binge may have four drinks and it affects them horribly," Liles said.
She said a patient's symptoms determine if they are clinically intoxicated, no matter if they're legally drunk.
Dr. Liles said if you're going to drink alcohol on the parade route, pace yourself, and never let a friend just sleep it off. If it gets that bad, call 911.
"Drink lots of water and stay hydrated. Eat meals regularly because there's so much fun food to eat," she said.
Most of all, she says have fun but know your limits. No one wants to end up in the ER.