Why alcohol and summer heat are a recipe for heat stroke

Ah, summer! After a long, cold winter, there’s nothing like long, warm days at the beach, around the pool, or just in your own backyard.

For me, the best thing about summer is being able to walk out the door without a sweater or jacket. Just get up, throw on some clothes, and go!

The worst thing, ironically, is the heat. And the humidity. I live for summer, but I’m not really a fan of sweating.

You’ll always find me with a cold drink within arm’s reach. Usually, it’s ice water. But on special occasions, or with friends, it’s a chilled glass of wine.

But if you enjoy a “cold one” (or two) while cooking some grub up on the “barbie,” or if you like to crack open the bottle of wine and watch the sunset at the end of the pier, there are some things you should know…

While warmer weather makes us want those refreshing-looking cocktails — especially the ones with those adorable little umbrellas — there are some definite hazards to drinking alcohol during the hot summer months, no matter how refreshing they may seem.

What alcohol + heat does to your body

The combination of heat and alcohol in your system has some very definite negative effects on your body…

First, drinking alcohol in the heat means you are losing twice as much liquid as you normally do.

That’s because alcohol is a diuretic. Medications that are diuretics, such as some blood pressure medications, cause the kidneys to release higher-than-usual amounts of water. Alcohol does the same thing.

Combine that with the water you’re already losing from sweating, and drinking other fluids becomes crucial.

Second, drinking alcohol during warm weather can really heat your body up, sometimes to dangerous levels.

Alcohol dilates your blood vessels, sending more blood to the surface of the skin, so your body is actually radiating heat.

On top of that, your liver is working overtime to process the alcohol you’re drinking.

Even without alcohol, your liver produces more heat than any other organ. When it has to process a few drinks, it’s heating up even more.

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Alcohol and heat stroke

A diuretic does more than eliminate water making you more prone to dehydration. It actually interferes with your body’s ability to regulate its own temperature.

This can result in a state of heat exhaustion, which, if left untreated, can quickly progress to heat stroke, which can be fatal.

Even if you’re a seasoned athlete or a very active person, you’re not immune to heat stroke.

Here’s the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

Heat exhaustion often begins with muscle cramping. You’ll feel weak and dizzy and probably have a bad headache. You’ll have a rapid, weak pulse, and you’ll be sweating a lot.

One of the most alarming things about heat stroke is that, rather than excessive sweating, the skin becomes very dry and hot. The person with heat stroke will become confused and agitated, may have slurred speech and a high fever — we’re talking 104° or higher.

Seizures, coma and death can follow.

How to enjoy a drink and avoid heat stroke

The good news is that you can enjoy the occasional cold alcoholic drink during the summer months without falling victim to heat stroke.

Just remember this one vitally important thing: drink water, too. Lots of water.

This seems like common sense, right? But how much water is enough?

Many people think that a glass of water for every glass of alcohol will protect you. But that isn’t really the case…

You’re probably urinating out a third more than the amount of alcohol you’re drinking. So, on a hot day, you’ll need two to three glasses of water for every alcoholic drink, just to break even.

You won’t feel thirsty since you’re already drinking. And don’t be fooled by your urine, either. It will look pale, the way it should when you’re properly hydrated. Except that alcohol isn’t hydrating you, it’s dehydrating you.

You should drink water every 30 minutes or so, while you’re actively drinking alcohol.

Eating salty foods while you drink is another way to hold onto fluids. So, pass the tortilla chips and pretzels, and enjoy some safer summer drinking.

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Sources:

  1. Here’s What Happens To Your Body When You Drink In The Heat — HuffPost
  2. Why do I overheat after drinking alcohol? — Naked Scientists
  3. Heat and alcohol–a dangerous combination — Hazelden
Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.