The dangers of drinking in the sun

Spring Break signals the start of warm days spent outside - preferably at the beach - and a season for social gatherings laughing and unwinding with family and friends. But if your plans involve alcoholic beverages, a harmless afternoon catching rays can take a hazardous turn. Tom Gutwein, MD, FACEP, ED Medical Director, Parkview Health, offers some advice on how to protect yourself and avoid Emergency Department visits (but still enjoy the sunshine).

If you haven't spent a lot of time in the sun, and even if you have, your body needs to adapt to the extra heat and exposure from the harmful rays. It's smart to wear hats and other protective clothing, and to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.

If you choose to consume alcohol, remember that this can make a sunburn worse and diminish your awareness of your body and surroundings. Every spring and summer, we see people that drink too much alcohol, reducing their awareness and causing them to get an intolerable sunburn, fall and break a leg or arm, sustain a severe laceration, fall out of a boat and sustain a life-threatening injury, or worse. 

Consider these simple actions this Spring Break or the next time you have a social gathering outside. 

5 Sun Safety Tips 

  1. Make sure you have a designated boat and car driver from the start. 
  2. Bring along plenty of bottles of water and drink them frequently, especially when consuming alcohol.
  3. Apply sunscreen before you hit the water or the beach, and re-apply it often.
  4. Don't forget snacks/lunch. Make eating an important part of your day.
  5. If you're taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, know that drinking will affect you in some way. Medications may make you drowsy or cause severe dehydration, which decreases your blood pressure to the point that you may not be able to stand. They can also increase the effect the sun has on your skin, making you very likely to suffer a painful sunburn. Many medications, especially when taken with alcohol and when you're exposed to sun and heat, can cause serious, life-threatening problems, including heart, kidney, or neurologic problems.

Have fun, plan ahead and stay safe!

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