Heat and Alcohol a Bad Combination

By Alexis D. Washington, TRICARE Management Activity

Great weather and long days are key ingredients for a good time. Barbeques, pool parties and trips to the beach are a few common hot weather activities. Summertime is packed with outdoor activities in sweltering summer weather.

One way people often deal with the heat is to reach for a cold drink containing alcohol, but extreme heat and alcohol can be a recipe for injuries, illness and even death.

Alcohol lowers the body’s tolerance for heat and acts as a diuretic—meaning it speeds up dehydration—and affects the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. The body loses needed fluids through the urination alcohol induces. If fluids in the body are not replaced, dehydration can be life-threatening.

Alcohol also raises the body’s blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heat-related illness like hyperthermia over heating and heat stroke especially for people with high blood pressure.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry lips and tongue
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps

Alcohol can affect the central nervous system. It impairs a person’s judgment, which can interfere with the ability to make smart choices. Impaired judgment causes a loss of inhibitions and may lead to dangerous behavior. Alcohol also influences balance and coordination and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat. Simple decisions, such as the right time to go inside to get out of the heat or when to drink more water, can be overlooked.

Judgment impaired by alcohol is a leading factor in deaths associated with water recreation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation and about one in five reported boating fatalities.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.