During the summer months, our health display campaign focuses on Summer Safety. Within our campaign, we highlight the risks of drinking alcohol in the sun and the dangers of mixing alcohol with water activities.

As a result of recent extreme heat, the NHS has issued amber warnings regarding the dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, as well as tips on how to stay cool.

Some people may use this sunny weather as an opportunity to socialise near water, consuming alcohol in the process, which can be dangerous – alcohol and water do not mix!

Why is Alcohol so Dangerous in the Heat?

Risk of Dehydration

Alcohol is a Diuretic!

Alcohol reduces the release of Vasopressin, the body’s antidiuretic hormone, affecting how the kidneys control fluid balance and increasing urination. During the hot weather, the body sweats more to keep itself cool. Both increased urination and increased sweating can lead to the body dehydrating.

Dehydration can cause dizziness, muscle cramps, disorientation, fatigue, impaired judgement, and heat stroke, a life-threatening condition caused when the body overheats.

The Effects of Alcohol in Hot Weather

Alcohol is water-soluble, so it relies on the water within the body to dilute it. The warm weather reduces the amount of fluid held in body cells so alcohol consumed is more concentrated meaning the individual will experience stronger intoxicating effects sooner and for longer.

Alcohol and Sunburn

Alcohol impairs judgement which may impact a person’s decision to apply sun cream at regular intervals and to seek shade from the sun. Alcohol may also affect a person’s recollection of how long they have been in the sun, which could lead to sunburn and heat stroke.

Alcohol has pain-blocking effects; therefore, the individual may not feel their skin burning. It also makes a person more sensitive to UV rays and the damage they cause.

Alcohol and Swimming

Alcohol and the sudden change in temperature when entering the water can cause a change in the fluid in the ear leading to disorientation. This can affect a person’s perception of distance and orientation of exit points, boats? rocks etc.

Alcohol interferes with CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) attempts after a near-drowning experience

Alcohol can cause the vocal cords to spasm, causing the airway to close. It is possible for water to become trapped within the windpipe causing water to enter the lungs leading to suffocation, as water is unable to leave the airway.  With airway closed it would be difficult to get air from CPR attempts into the person.

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system which includes breathing rate and heart rate. Alcohol can inhibit the gagging reflex, preventing the person to expel vomit from the body, most people receiving chest compression following a near drowning will vomit.

Sudden Cold Shock and Hypothermia are Life-Threatening

Even in hot weather, outdoor water can be cold. When the body experiences cold situations it draws the blood away from the limbs toward the vital organs to prevent heat loss. This tries to protect the body from Cold Water Shock and Hypothermia. Alcohol can inhibit this process.  If a person gets Cold Water Shock their blood pressure can decrease suddenly leading to confusion and fainting.

So, this summer…

The NHS advise:

If you choose to do water-based activities, including swimming

  • Avoid if under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Think! Is this water safe before entering? Not all outdoor spaces are safe swimming spots.
  • If there is a ‘NO SWIMMING’ sign, obey it – it is there for a reason. Dangers including old machinery or pump systems can be below the water.
  • Use venues with lifeguards and buoys.
  • Do not swim alone, let people know you are there.
  • Beware of currents in rivers, seas, and lakes.
  • Take your phone in a waterproof case and use the app ‘What 3 Words’, if you get into trouble as help can find you easier.

The weather hots up but are you hot on water safety? | Royal Life Saving Society UK ( RLSS UK )

Images Courtesy of Vista Create:

Photo Blue cooler box and volleyball ball on sandy beach created by AllaSerebrina

Photo Above view of cold beer bottles lying on grass created by AlexLipa