Alcohol and hot weather can be an especially dangerous mix. Drinking impairs judgment and increases risk-taking any time. In hot weather, you add the potential risk of heat stroke caused by dehydration.
That’s because alcohol lowers the body’s tolerance for heat and acts as a diuretic, meaning it causes the body to lose more fluid than without drinking. Also, a dehydrated person is likely to feel the effects of alcohol more quickly and severely than someone who is properly hydrated, according to TrueStar Health. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:dry lips and tongue, headache, weakness, dizziness or extreme fatigue, darker than normal urine, nausea and muscle cramps.
Drinking to excess in hot weather can lead to tragic consequences on the water, on the road, and in the great outdoors. Research shows that half of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol.
Swimmers can get in over their heads: Even experienced swimmers may venture out farther than they should and not be able to make it back to shore, or may not notice how chilled they’re getting and develop hypothermia. Surfers could become over-confident and try to ride a wave beyond their abilities. Even around a pool, too much alcohol can have deadly consequences. Inebriated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive where the water is too shallow.
Boaters can lose their bearings: According to research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol may be involved in 60 percent of boating fatalities, including falling overboard. A boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.1 percent is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than an operator with zero BAC. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. And if problems arise, intoxicated boaters are less able to find solutions. For passengers, intoxication can lead to slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.
Drivers can go off course: The summer holidays are some of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. When on vacation, drivers may be traveling an unfamiliar route or hauling a boat or camper, with the distraction of pets and children in the car. Adding alcohol to the mix puts the lives of the driver and everyone in the car, as well as other people on the road, at risk.
Stay hydrated and stay healthy: At parties, make at least every other drink a nonalcoholic one. If you’re the host, be sure to provide plenty of cold, refreshing nonalcoholic drinks to keep your guests well hydrated. If you know you’ll be driving, stay away from alcohol. And remember, there’s no shame in taking a cab or sleeping on a friend’s couch if you feel at all unsure if you should be driving.
- MYTH: If you drink just beer or wine, you’ll be fine.
- FACT: It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you chose to consume—a drink is a drink. Your blood alcohol content (also known as BAC, the percentage of alcohol in your blood) is what determines how intoxicated you are.
- MYTH: Drink coffee. Caffeine will sober you up.
- FACT: Caffeine may help with drowsiness, but not with the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination. The body needs time to metabolize (break down) alcohol and then return to normal. There are no quick ways to sober up – only time will help.
For more information on preventing problems with alcohol this summer, and tips on cutting back, visit Rethinking Drinking, a National Institutes of Health microsite.