Self-Test for Breath Alcohol
A breath alcohol test is an estimate of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The test measures the amount of alcohol in the air that you breathe out (exhale).
You can measure your own breath alcohol level with a simple handheld device. If the device is calibrated and used according to the manufacturer's directions, it can provide an accurate estimate of your blood alcohol level. The home device is similar to, though not as precise as, the type of test used by police for suspected drunk drivers.
Within minutes of drinking alcohol, your blood alcohol concentration starts to rise. Unlike food, alcohol is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach, goes into the bloodstream, and travels throughout your body and to your brain. This allows blood alcohol levels to increase quickly.
The amount of alcohol in your blood reaches its highest level about 60 minutes after drinking. But food in your stomach may increase the amount of time it takes for the blood alcohol to reach its highest level. Most of the alcohol is broken down in the Reference liver Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window. The rest of it is passed out of your body in urine and your exhaled breath.
You can buy breath alcohol devices to measure your BAC at many pharmacies or through the Internet.
- The manual device is a glass tube (or a balloon and a glass tube) containing crystals that change color when exposed to alcohol from your breath. This device is less expensive than electronic meters.
- The electronic meter shows your BAC in a digital display window after you blow into a glass mouthpiece attached to the meter. This type of meter is more expensive than the manual type.
Many bars and restaurants provide their customers with free alcohol breath tests using one of these two methods. The devices are also used to monitor people in an alcohol rehabilitation center or hospital.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference November 8, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology