As summer approaches and temperatures rise, there’s no better time to start thinking about heat safety and staying hyrdated on hot, summer days. Every year, the National Weather Service (NWS) reminds us of the dangers of not staying cool and hydrated in hot, humid weather through Heat Safety Awareness Day. This year, the observance falls on May 23.
According to the NWS, heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the U.S. and results in hundreds of fatalities each year. When the body heats too fast to cool itself down in hot weather or when too much fluid or salt is lost through sweating or dehydration, body temperature rises and causes heat-related illnesses, from heat cramps and heat exhaustion to sometimes fatal heat stroke.
Of course, simply spending too much time under the hot sun or not drinking enough water can lead to heat-related illnesses, but certain factors can make you more susceptible. One major factor that’s too often involved in summertime activities is alcohol.
Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic that causes your body to lose more fluid than normal, contributing to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke. When you mix alcohol and sun, alcohol’s dehydrating effects are enhanced. Alcohol can also impair your ability to judge whether or not you are experiencing symptoms of heat-related illnesses while dehydration accelerates the effects of alcohol.
Observe Heat Safety Awareness Day and prepare for your summer fun by following a few alcohol-related summer safety tips:
- Drink plenty of water when you’re out in the sun, whether you’re playing a sport, hiking on your favorite trail, or lounging by the pool. And don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take a sip, as thirst if the first sign of dehydration.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages when spending time outdoors and stay hydrated with water and sports drinks.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after alcohol consumption if you decide to drink alcohol during outdoor events or activities.
- Limit your number of alcoholic beverages and pace yourself by drinking a large glass of water between each alcoholic beverage.
- Keep alcohol consumption limited to backyard barbecues, poolside lounging, and other low energy activities and do not consume alcohol while hiking, boating, playing sports, or performing high energy activities.
- Be aware of dehydration symptoms, such as dry lips and mouth, headache, weakness, dizziness or extreme fatique, dark urine, nausea, and muscle cramps.
- Be aware of heatstroke symptoms, such as high fever, irrational behavior, extreme confusion, rapid and shallow breathing, rapid and weak pulse, seizures, unconsciousness, and dry, hot, and red skin.