While most people think of summer as a time for family, friends, and fun activities, it’s also important to be aware of extra risks that arise when the temperatures begin to sizzle. Sweltering summer temperatures can be especially dangerous for those struggling with an alcohol addiction or another substance use disorder, and it’s important to be aware of how to protect yourself from dangerous, or even lethal, side effects. If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol addiction or another substance abuse disorder, here’s what you need to know about staying safe this summer when drinking alcohol in the summer heat:
Why is Dehydration Harmful?
Exposing your body to high temperatures always heightens your risk of dehydration–with or without alcohol. This is because high temperatures cause your body to sweat, depleting the water your body has to sustain itself. According to an article in the HuffPost, it’s easy to lose a liter or more within a couple of hours when you’re exposed to sweltering temperatures. If you don’t replenish your body’s water supply, your body will enter a state of high stress which can lead to dangerous health complications.
Alcohol in the Summer Heat: Why They’re a Dangerous Combination
Although high temperatures already put you at risk of dehydration, consuming alcohol and other substances will only exacerbate your risk of dehydration and related side effects. Here’s why:
Alcohol is a Diuretic
Alcohol is a diuretic, which is a substance that causes you to urinate more frequently, and thus causes your body to lose even more water. Although drinking alcohol alone can already place your body at risk of dehydration, alcohol in combination with high temperatures places you at an even higher risk of serious health complications.
Alcohol Makes You Feel Falsely Hydrated
One reason why drinking can be dangerous in the summer heat is that it’s easy to feel falsely hydrated. When you’re guzzling a beer, sipping on wine, or consuming another cold alcoholic beverage, it seems impossible that you could be dehydrated. However, just because alcoholic beverages are a fluid does not mean they actually hydrate your body. Unfortunately, the effects of alcohol can actually compound your dehydration, rather than help with it. Especially when consuming alcohol in the summer heat.
Alcohol Reduces Your ADH Levels
ADH, or antidiuretic hormone, is responsible for helping your body maintain a balanced level of fluids. Alcohol suppresses your body’s ability to release vasopressin, an important ADH for keeping your body’s fluids regulated. Combined with the fact that alcohol is a diuretic, your risk of dehydration from consuming alcohol alone is high, let alone consuming alcohol in the summer heat.
Side Effects of Dehydration
Although you might think of dehydration symptoms as a light headache or simply feeling extra thirsty, in reality, the side effects are much more serious. Here’s a look at some of the symptoms you might experience as a result of dehydration:
- Extreme thirst: Thirst is an early symptom of dehydration and means that your body is low on necessary fluids.
- Extreme fatigue: As your body becomes increasingly dehydrated, it will work to preserve resources, leaving you feeling tired and weak.
- Confusion: Dehydration, especially coupled with the effects of alcohol, can cause you to feel disoriented, confused, dizzy, or delirious.
- Low blood pressure: Less water in your body means that you have less blood volume too. This leads to a drop in blood pressure.
- Heightened heart rate: When your body is dehydrated, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your system. This can lead to heart palpitations and a higher heart rate than usual.
- Dark urine: Dehydration may lead to dark-colored urine, while healthy urine is very light or clear.
- Less frequent urination: Because your body’s water levels are low, you may experience less frequent urination.
- Heat injury: Heat injuries can range from mild to severe and can cause serious health complications. Severe dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
- Seizures: In extreme situations, dehydration can lead to seizures. This is because a lack of fluids and electrolytes can cause your body to become out of sync.
- Kidney failure: When your kidneys can’t regulate the amount of fluids and waste in your blood, you may experience kidney failure.
How to Stay Safe in the Summer Heat
Here are some tips for staying safe as the temperatures rise this summer:
First, and most obvious, drinking plenty of water is your best protection against experiencing severe dehydration. As a rule of thumb, you should drink at least 8 to 12 ounces of water for every alcoholic drink that you consume. If you’re planning to attend an outdoor gathering where you’re likely to drink alcohol, it’s wise to pack a water bottle. Having a water source handy that you can refill throughout the event is a great way to protect yourself against severe dehydration.
Another way to protect yourself against the effects of dehydration is by planning ahead. If you’re planning to attend an outdoor event on a day when you know it will be hot, prepare in advance by drinking plenty of water in the hours leading up to the event.
Don’t Forget to Eat
Did you know that having food in your stomach can actually slow the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol? This is why staying full before and during your outdoor event can help prevent dehydration. Foods with high levels of fiber, fat, and protein are especially effective at slowing the rate that your body absorbs alcohol.
Understand Your Limits
Finally, it’s important to understand your limits. Alcohol affects everyone differently, and factors such as body weight, gender, and genetics can play a large role in how quickly your body absorbs alcohol. This is why it’s important to understand your limits and respect them. If attending an event where you know you might feel tempted to have a few drinks, it never hurts to choose a friend to be accountable to. Having someone watching out for you can help you stay safe.
Pay Attention to Symptoms
If you begin to experience symptoms of dehydration, act immediately. Find a shady spot to cool down, and start to replenish your liquids. If you’re already dehydrated, sports drinks that contain electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Powerade, can help your body recover faster.
Get Help for Alcoholism Today
If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol addiction or another substance use disorder, it’s important to seek the help you need. Addiction professionals at North Jersey Recovery can provide you with the tools you need to help you find hope, healing, and recovery. Our team of addiction specialists, recovery coaches, and mental health professionals will help you create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs. Reach out to us today to book an appointment and start the path to recovery.