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Alcohol and Sun: Risks of Summer Drinking

Tired sweating woman wipes her forehead with a napkin and holds cold water bottle

Summer is a time for fun, relaxation, and social gatherings. However, it often comes with an increase in consumption of alcohol and sun. Many summer activities, such as BBQs, pool parties, and beach outings, involve drinking and being outdoors.

While enjoying these events, it is crucial to be aware of the risks associated with drinking, especially during the hot summer. Understanding these dangers and learning how to stay safe can help you have an enjoyable summer.

Six Health Problems Related to Drinking in the Sun

Drinking alcohol and spending time in the sun can put one at a higher risk for serious health problems that are often underestimated. Some key issues to be aware of include:

1. Dehydration

Alcohol reduces the amount of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) in the body, meaning it increases urine production and leads to fluid loss. When you’re out in the hot sun, your body is already losing water through sweat.

Combining this with the diuretic effect of alcohol can quickly lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, headache, dry mouth, and extreme thirst. Severe risk of dehydration can escalate to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, both of which require immediate medical attention.1

2. Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats and can’t cool itself down properly. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, confusion, nausea, and fainting.

If not treated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition where the body’s temperature rises above 104°F. Heat stroke requires emergency treatment as it can cause damage to your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles.2

3. Increased Risk of Sunburn and Skin Damage

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, people who drink alcohol while being outside in the sun are not as likely to apply sunscreen, which increases the risk of sunburn.3

Also, research suggests that alcohol decreases how much sun exposure is needed to produce burns. This is particularly concerning because repeated sunburns can increase the risk of skin cancer. To maximize your summer fun, whether you are drinking or not, always remember to apply plenty of sunscreen.3,4

4. Cardiovascular Strain

Alcohol consumption can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure. When you add the stress of high temperatures, your cardiovascular system has to work even harder to maintain normal body functions. This can be particularly dangerous for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.

5. Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are essential for normal body functions, including muscle and nerve function. Alcohol can lead to an imbalance of these electrolytes, especially when combined with the sweating induced by hot weather. An imbalance can cause symptoms ranging from muscle cramps and fatigue to more severe conditions like seizures.2

6. Compromised Immune System

Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses. When you’re out in the sun and potentially exposed to various environmental factors, this weakened immune response can increase your risk of getting sick.

Seven Tips to Stay Healthy This Summer

Staying healthy during summer activities involves more than just moderating alcohol consumption. Here are some tips to help you enjoy the season while minimizing health risks:

1. Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you’re outdoors in the heat. Aim to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume to help counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Carry a reusable water bottle with you to ensure you have access to water at all times.

2. Eat Regularly

Eating balanced, nutritious meals and snacks can help maintain your energy levels and reduce the impact of alcohol on your body. Include fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, such as watermelon and cucumber, to stay hydrated. Also, consider eating foods rich in electrolytes, like bananas and yogurt, to help maintain a healthy balance.

3. Take Breaks From the Sun

Seek shade or go indoors periodically to give your body a break from the heat. Wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen can also protect you from harmful UV rays. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you’re swimming or sweating.

Fitness man silhouette drinking water from a bottle

4. Plan Alcohol-Free Activities

Engage in summer activities that do not center around drinking. Consider organizing a picnic, going for a hike, or playing sports. This can help reduce the temptation to drink excessively and provide opportunities for fun and relaxation without alcohol.

5. Be Mindful of Your Drinking

If you choose to drink, be aware of your limits and pace yourself. Avoid binge drinking, which is having four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in two hours. Set a limit for yourself, stick to it, and consider alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones.5

6. Have a Support System

Surround yourself with friends and family who support your goal of staying healthy. Let them know your intentions and ask for their encouragement. Having a supportive group can make it easier to make healthy choices and avoid situations where you might feel pressured to drink.

7. Know When to Seek Help

If you find that you are unable to stop drinking or are concerned about your alcohol consumption, it is important to seek help. There are many resources available, including support groups and professional treatment programs, that can provide assistance. Acknowledging the need for help is a crucial step toward recovery and maintaining your health.

Find Support This Summer With Lumina Recovery

Summer can be a wonderful time to create memories and enjoy the outdoors, but it’s important to stay mindful of the risks associated with drinking. By understanding the health problems that can arise from drinking in the hot sun and following tips to stay healthy, you can have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Lumina Recovery’s alcohol addiction treatment program is ready to help at every stage of the recovery process. If you or a loved one is struggling to control your drinking, do not hesitate to seek help.

Your well-being is a priority, so take proactive steps to enjoy a safe and healthy summer. Contact us today to start your journey.

Sources:

  1. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/dangers-of-too-much-alcohol-summer-heat
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22111-hyperthermia
  3. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/risky-drinking-can-put-chill-on-your-summer-fun
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23147451/
  5. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

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