Independence Day, a holiday notorious for high alcohol consumption and drunk driving-related crashes and fatalities, might be behind us, but summer festivities involving alcohol will go on as the weather continues to heat up through August. As tempting as it is to celebrate summertime with alcohol or enjoy a summer-infused cocktail or an ice cold beer on a particularly hot day, alcoholic drinks won’t cool you off or keep you hydrated, no matter how refreshing they might taste.
A diuretic that causes your body to lose more fluid than normal, alcohol can contribute to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and, if the first two heat illnesses aren’t addressed, heatstroke, which can cause shock, brain damage, organ failure, and even death. When combined with too much heat and sun, alcohol’s dehydrating effects are enhanced, increasing your risk of heat-related illnesses. Alcohol can also impair your ability to judge whether or not you are experiencing symptoms of dehydration and other heat-related illnesses while dehydration accelerates the effects of alcohol.
Whether your upcoming summer plans include poolside lounging, long days at the beach, or trips out on the water, stay cool and hydrated by following these summer heat safety tips:
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, as thirst is the first sign of dehydration
- Replenish fluids lost by the body with water and/or sports drinks and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages
- Drink plenty of water before and after you drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages and have a large glass of water between each alcoholic drink
- Provide water and festive non-alcoholic drinks at barbecues and pool parties
- Be aware of dehydration symptoms, including dry lips and mouth, headache, weakness, dizziness or extreme fatigue, dark urine, nausea, and muscle cramps
- Be aware of heatstroke symptoms, including high fever, irrational behavior, extreme confusion, rapid and shallow breathing, rapid and weak pulse, seizures, unconsciousness, and dry, hot, and red skin
And remember: Summer is a dangerous time of year to be on the road and even out on the water. Drunk driving-related traffic crashes increase during the summertime while alcohol is the leading contributor to boating deaths. Never drink and drive or operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol. The National Safety Council even recommends that both boat operators and passengers avoid drinking alcohol while out on the water to avoid the risk of heat-related illnesses and drowning.