Dangerous Cocktail: Alcohol and the Sun
Pool parties, beach days, picnics and cool waves are all part of summer fun. And while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cocktail, a boozy cruise around town or a lake – mixed with heat – alcohol and the sun can be exceptionally dangerous.
Why? Alcohol acts not only as a distraction, taking your mind off the environment, but sun significantly intensifies its effects. And if you’re on the water, add wind, rain, noise, vibration and motion actually intensifies the side effects of alcohol and drugs.
We know impaired judgment caused by alcohol increases your risk for injury by leads to potentially reckless behavior – now add the elements to that impairment. You can misjudge heat, the amount of water your body is losing (alcohol is a diuretic), swimming distances, how cold the water is, and when it’s safe to operate a vehicle or boat. You can even pass out in the water – creating a very real drowning scenario.
Did you know alcohol not only acts as a diuretic, speeding up dehydration, but is also raises your blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heat-related illness like hyperthermia overheating and heat stroke.
Bottom line: the swirling mix of too much alcohol and summer fun can lead to horrible consequences both in and out of the sun. But there are ways to protect yourself!
- Stay hydrated. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you urinate more than normal, affecting your body’s fluid balance. When you sweat too, it can cause dizziness, headache, and a bigger risk for overheating. Maybe challenge yourself to have a bottle of water with each beer.
- Stay cool. “Heat exhaustion” happens when you’ve been exposed to a lot of heat. If you start to experience cramps, swelling in your legs, weakness, or even feel faint, those are sure signs that the party should be over.
- Stay heat stroke-free. Heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke, which is a serious medical emergency. Exposure to hot temperatures is the main cause of heatstroke, and alcohol makes it harder for your body to regulate its temperature.
- Stay insensitive. More than alcohol gets distorted in the sun. Legal and illegal drugs can make your body worse at dissipating heat – including simple OTC medications like antihistamines, or even antidepressants [e.g., Lexapro]. Some antibiotics make you even more likely to burn, too.
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