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Top 5 Summertime Risks from Drinking Alcohol
Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the outdoors by going to the beach or pool, taking the boat out, or attending a backyard barbecue. However, many of these fun warm weather activities include drinking alcoholic beverages, and this can be a dangerous mix. Drinking impairs both physical and mental abilities, and also decreases inhibitions and the ability to make decisions. Heat and sun exposure can further amplify these effects – which can lead to disastrous consequences and injury on the water, on the road, and in the great outdoors.
One of the main risks of drinking out in the summer sun is dehydration. Alcohol consumption can cause an onset of dehydration more easily due to the fact that it is a diuretic, meaning it rids the body of more fluid than it takes in. When hot weather is accompanied by heavy drinking, your body temperature begins to rise faster than if you weren’t drinking, and you start to sweat more – perspiration helps cool the body.
Then, alcohol further dehydrates you because it causes you to both urinate and perspire more than normal. Excess consumption of alcohol can also irritate the stomach and result in vomiting, which further depletes the body of much needed fluid and heightens the risk of dehydration.
Mild dehydration can be treated by drinking large amounts of hydrating fluids such as water or sports drinks. However, moderate-to-severe dehydration often requires immediate medical attention and intravenous fluids.
2. Heat Stroke
In addition to dehydration, another serious heat-related illness that can happen when drinking outside for extended periods of time is heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature.
The human body produces a large amount of internal heat that is normally cooled by perspiration. If the body lacks enough fluids to make this process work (due to excessive drinking), you’re unable to sweat enough to cool yourself down. Being out in the hot summer sun without a way to regulate your temperature can cause it to rise to dangerously high levels.
Symptoms of heat stroke include headache, dizziness, disorientation, confusion, loss of consciousness, hallucinations, seizures and several other serious symptoms similar to those of dehydration. Immediate cooling and replenishment of fluids is necessary to help relieve symptoms and prevent permanent damage.
During a hot summer’s day, a dip in the pool, lake, or ocean may seem like the ideal way to cool down; however, it can be deadly when alcohol is involved. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol use contributes to at least 20 percent of all adult drowning deaths each year.
Alcohol suppresses the body’s gag reflex, which means that drinking can increase your risk of drowning if you start to struggle in the water. You may also become disoriented and have trouble figuring out which way to go to get out of the water and back to the shore or edge of the pool. Additionally, alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk-taking behavior. Intoxicated swimmers may misjudge swimming distances and venture out further than they realize, struggling to get back to safety. Alcohol also reduces coordination and impairs reaction time, which increases the likelihood of slipping or falling near pools and other bodies of water. To be safe, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) recommends waiting at least one hour after consuming an alcoholic beverage before going into the water.
4. Boating Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one-third of all boating fatalities involve alcohol use. Alcohol causes loss of coordination and balance, which is critical when on a boat. At least one in four boating fatalities is a result of a passenger simply falling overboard and drowning. Alcohol also reduces inhibitions, causing normally cautious people to try stunts such as driving at high speeds or engage in high-risk situations that a sober person would avoid like driving too close to another boating vessel.
Furthermore, alcohol consumption severely diminishes your reaction time and ability to respond to different situations at once. It takes longer to receive information from your eyes, ears and other senses, and to react once that information is received. All of this increases the chance of a boating accident. Additionally, reduced night vision and the inability to distinguish red from green makes intoxicated night boating an even greater hazard.
5. Car Accidents
The summer months see a substantial increase in both alcohol-involved crashes and DUIs, especially around holiday weekends. It’s a time of year when many families take vacations and may be traveling unfamiliar routes, which can increase the chance of a crash when intoxicated drivers are on the road.
Young drivers are also more likely to engage in drunk driving during the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day when school is out of session. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that about 15 percent of teenagers between the ages of 18 and 21 admitted that they had gotten behind the wheel after drinking during the summer of 2017. Additionally, holidays such as Cinco de Mayo and the 4th of July are occasions that are often celebrated with excessive alcohol consumption, which likewise increase rates of drunk driving.
Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated not only puts you at risk, but other innocent people on the road as well.
Stay Safe This Summer
Summer fun can quickly come to an end when alcohol is involved. If you do decide to have a drink, limit yourself and try to stay somewhere cool and away from the water. It’s important to remember that there are plenty of activities and ways to make memories this summer while remaining sober. If you’re someone that is struggling to control your alcohol consumption, contact a dedicated treatment specialist today.
- Author — Last Edited: May 20, 2019
Boat U.S. Foundation. (2019). Alcohol and Boating: the Effects of Alcohol. Retrieved on April 23, 2019 from https://www.boatus.org/alcohol-and-boating/effects/
John Hopkins Medicine. (2019). Dehydration and Heat Stroke. Retrieved on April 23, 2019 from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/dehydration-and-heat-stroke
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). Risky Drinking Can Put a Chill on Your Summer Fun. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/SummerSafety/NIAAA_SummerSafetyFactSheet.pdf
Siefert, Katie. (2018). While Being Out in the Summer, Know the Dangers of Drinking in the Heat. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from https://wtov9.com/news/local/while-being-out-in-the-summer-know-the-dangers-of-drinking-in-the-heat