Whether it’s frozen daiquiris by the pool, martinis on the patio during happy hour, or a few cold beers after mowing the lawn, alcoholic beverages seem to perfectly complement the long, hot days of summer.
But because heat and alcohol affect the body similarly, mixing the two can be dangerous.
“Consuming alcohol outdoors in the summer heat can lead to a variety of heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration, heat cramps and potentially heat stroke,” says Robert Czincila, DO, chief of Emergency Medicine at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. “Even worse, many people don’t realize these things are happening because they think they’re quenching their thirst.”
“Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes you to urinate more frequently and perspire more than normal,” continues Dr. Czincila. “Add that to a hot day when your body is already working hard to keep itself cool and you’re at increased risk for dehydration.”
Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, increased heart rate, rapid breathing and dry skin. Mild dehydration can be treated by drinking non-alcoholic fluids such as water and sports drinks. Moderate dehydration may require IV fluids, while severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention.
“Hot weather and alcohol also dilate your blood vessels and decrease the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature,” Dr. Czincila says. “This can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, which can be very dangerous without proper medical care.”
To avoid this, keep the following in mind when enjoying alcohol in the summer heat:
- Only drink alcohol after you’re no longer thirsty. Thirst is a sign of dehydration, so it’s important to rehydrate with water or a sports drink before consuming alcohol.
- Make every other drink a nonalcoholic one (preferably water).
- Avoid drinks that contain caffeine and sugary mixers such as soda or syrup.
- Restrict drinking to the evening hours when the sun isn’t at its hottest.
“Even moderate drinking can put you at higher risk for heat illness on a very hot day,” warns Dr. Czincila. “The best way to avoid a problem is to avoid alcohol on hot days altogether.”