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Medical Conditions that can affect your Blood Alcohol Concentration

A breathalyzer, or breath test, is used to determine the BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of a driver who has been stopped because they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. The breath test is usually performed after field sobriety tests are administered. Frequently, a breath test gives inaccurate and high results due to medical conditions of the driver or his physical circumstances. A breath machine must test ’deep lung air’ to achieve an accurate reading. To get this air, the driver must blow continuously for five seconds or more. For some people with asthma, bronchitis or emphysema this could be an impossible task because they don’t have the capacity to blow enough air to give an adequate sample.

Asthma Inhalers

Anyone who uses an asthma inhaler should think twice before they agree to submit to a breath test. Inhalers work by emitting a mist containing a significant amount of alcohol into the lungs. On average, about one-third of the mist is alcohol. This alcohol does not get absorbed into the blood, but stays in the lining of the lungs. From there, it gets exhaled into a breath machine and the result is an artificially high reading. According to how breath machines work, a small amount of alcohol from an inhaler that is present in the lungs is multiplied many times over. In other words, a very small amount of inhaler alcohol present in the lungs may cause an unusually high reading from the breathalyzer.

Acid Reflux and Belching

As stated previously, the breath machine is designed to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s lung tissue. Acid reflux, caused by several medical conditions, occurs when the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus fails to completely close. When the driver belches, this defective valve allows liquids and gases to rise up from the stomach and into the throat and mouth where they are swallowed again. Since these liquids and gasses may contain alcohol, when they are mixed with the driver’s breath and then blown into the Breathalyzer, the result can be disproportionately high.


A diabetic often experiences high and low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, causes the diabetic to exhibit certain symptoms such as drowsiness, slurred speech, poor motor control and disorientation. These are all symptoms that could be mistaken for drunkenness. Hyperglycemia, elevated blood sugar, can cause Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This condition produces acetones which are present in the breath. The breath machine reads the acetones as alcohol and gives a high reading, even if you had not been drinking at all. You probably have medical records that can back up your defense to a bogus breath test result. If you are able to show an outside influence affected the reliability of the breath test results, the State will have to rely on other types of evidence to prove that you were intoxicated which weakens their DUI case. This information can be critical to helping your DUI lawyer fight your DUI charge.