Sun & Alcohol: A Dangerous Mix

We have all spent a lot more time than usual indoors the last few months than what we are used to. But now that we are coming into warmer weather and longer days for the Summer months, we thought it was important to highlight the dangers of mixing alcohol with sun. Whether it’s the sunshine at the beach once we are back to our normal lives post COVID-19 or just in your back garden, it can cause the same amount of damage if you are consuming alcohol. You don’t need to be in the Bahamas either, the sun here in Ireland is enough.

The risks of skin cancer from being exposed to too much sun has been widely documented in recent years and I think most of us now are well aware of the importance of applying sunscreen. But not many of us know the importance of limiting your alcohol intake while in the sun, in fact many do the complete opposite. The effects alcohol has on our bodies can be magnified substantially when exposed to high levels of heat or sun. We all know the effects alcohol can have on us, between impacting our physical and mental health, balance, co-ordination and even impairing our judgment and inhibitions. However, when you add sun to the mix along with alcohol, it means that fewer drinks than normal can put you at risk of these effects.

Below we are going to discuss some of the health risks associated with consuming alcohol while being exposed to sun and heat. We hope by making people aware of these risks, it will make you consider your alcohol consumption on the next sunny day.

Sun burn Quicker

There are studies that have been conducted which prove an individual’s skin is more vulnerable and sensitive to the sun after the consumption of alcohol. Research has been done which shows the amount of UV light required to burn the skin of an individual was substantially reduced even after drinking three alcoholic beverages. One theory is that the alcohol consumption lowers the levels of carotenoids and therefore makes the skin more vulnerable to the sunshine. Bottom line is that if you do consume alcohol while being exposed to the sun, the chances are you will sunburn a lot quicker than usual.

Skin Cancer

As mentioned earlier, most of us are aware that exposure to the sun substantially increased the risk of melanoma. But drinking alcohol also increases the risk of melanoma. It follows on from the previous point mentioned in relation to individuals sun burning quicker as a result of consuming alcohol. When this occurs frequently over time, it raises the risk of melanoma, even as high as 20% more than an individual who occasionally or never drinks alcohol.

Dehydration, Heat Stroke and Exhaustion

Mixing alcohol with sunshine increases an individual’s risk of dehydration. When exposed to heat and sun, our body attempts to cool itself through sweating. However, if these fluids are not replaced, it leads to dehydration which in turn may result in dizziness, fatigue and extreme thirst. Alcohol is both a diuretic and vasodilator, which basically means alcohol can affect an individual’s core body temperature, resulting in making a person feel warmer and therefore more susceptible to dehydration. Prolonged dehydration can then lead a number of heat related illness, including cramps, exhaustion and at its worst heat stroke. It is strongly advised to stay hydrated when in the sun, and that does not mean with alcohol as it will only make things worse.

Drowning

The consumption of alcohol often results in individuals becoming more careless and even reckless than what they would ordinarily. This can lead to disastrous and often fatal implications when water is involved, whether it’s directly with water sports and swimming pools or even walking close to rivers and lakes. A lot of holidays are focused around water to cool down from the warm sun and have some fun, but when you throw alcohol in the mix it’s a recipe for disaster. When intoxicated with alcohol, dexterity of an individual is impacted, and therefore may be difficult to swim and even float which can lead to drowning. Additionally, and increased physical exertion such as swimming or other water sports when paired with alcohol and sunshine can result in a person overheating, and lead to severe health issues.

Boating Accidents

Alcohol is a major contributor to boating accidents during the summer months. Both the operators of the boats and passengers can be impacted through exposure to noise and vibration from the engine, the heat and glare from the sun as well as the wind and motion of the boat on the water. Exposure to these factors has been known to produce boater’s hypnosis, which is a type of fatigue or drunk like symptoms. Combining this with alcohol, which would regularly be the case during the summer months, particularly on booze cruises etc., dramatically increases the risk of accidents. Studies show that boating while consuming alcohol can even be more dangerous than drinking and driving, of course neither of which we would recommend.

Tips for staying safe this Summer

  • Stay Hydrated – Try to drink water regardless if you are thirsty or not if you know you are going to be in the sun.
  • Limit Alcohol – Try to limit your alcohol consumption. However, if you do decide to drink alcohol, make sure you stay hydrated by alternating your alcoholic drink with water or sports drink.
  • Pace Your Drinking – Sometimes it can be easy to lose count of how many drinks you’ve had, but particularly in the sunshine, this can lead to intoxication a lot quicker than expected and also lead to the heat illnesses mentioned above. So, we recommend pacing yourself with your rate and quantity of drinking.
  • Be Aware of your Limitations – When it comes to doing activities after or during alcohol consumption, be aware of your limitations. As mentioned above, alcohol can impair our judgement and lead to us becoming more careless and reckless. Don’t ever drive boats or a car after drinking, and just be extra vigilant when doing any activity especially when water is involved.
  • Take Precautions – Ultimately if you know you will be exposed to sun while drinking alcohol there are precautions you can take to try to best avoid the effects listed above. If doing water activities or on a boat wear a life jacket, stay hydrated and eat regularly and make sure to consistently apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and stay in the shade when possible.

Finally, sometimes we forget that there are many activities we can do, places to go and memories to create while remaining sober this summer. Not every outing or celebration needs to involve alcohol.

 Tabor Group

If you or someone you love is struggling to control your consumption of alcohol contact Tabor Group today. Tabor Group is a leading provider of residential addiction treatment services in Ireland. We provide support and care to hundreds of clients suffering from addictions to alcohol, substances, gambling and eating disorders. For more information on Tabor Group’s services, click here.

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