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Alcohol and Health

Summer Sipping: How To Drink Safely in the Heat

May 8, 2024
15 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
May 8, 2024
15 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
May 8, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
May 8, 2024
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Reframe Content Team
May 8, 2024
15 min read

Celebrating in the Summer Sun Without Booze

  • Drinking on a hot summer day is not the same as drinking during the rest of the year. Alcohol can affect us differently in the heat and put us at risk for heat illnesses, sunburn, and dehydration.  

  • When drinking in the summer heat, it’s important to moderate intake, drink plenty of water, have a plan for a safe ride, and wear plenty of sunscreen. 

  • Enjoy life without booze! The Reframe app helps you develop healthier drinking habits so you can thrive this summer without alcohol.

Feeling hot, hot, hot? On those hot summer days, having an ice-cold drink by the lake or pool sounds like the perfect way to spend our afternoon. As tempting as it may be to make that drink an ice-cold beer or hard seltzer, alcohol is really not the best choice to beat the summer heat. In fact, it can make things worse.

Read on to learn about the science behind how alcohol impacts us differently in the summer heat. We’ll go through the dangers of drinking on a hot summer day and talk about ways we can make those days safer and enjoyable! 

Does Alcohol Affect Us Differently When It’s Hot?  

A lady drinking alcohol in summer

Quite simply, yes! The heat can change the way our body responds to alcohol. Our body is a big fan of stability — it wants to stay in homeostasis as long as possible and will fight anything that tries to throw it off. When it’s trying to fight off heat and alcohol at once, it can get overwhelmed.

Let’s look at some of the ways alcohol and heat work together to attack our body. 

  • Vasodilation. Our body attempts to naturally cool itself down by dilating (expanding) blood vessels near the skin’s surface to release excess heat. Alcohol also induces vasodilation. This can cause blood pressure issues and problems regulating body temperature.
  • Body temperature control. Because alcohol inhibits our body’s ability to expand and contract blood vessels, we may not be able to safely regulate our body temperature. In fact, drinking alcohol often makes our skin feel hot. That’s because all of our blood is rushing to the surface — causing our internal temperature to drop. In reality, even if we feel hotter, our body is losing heat fast. Believe it or not, it’s possible to get hypothermia at temperatures as high as 70ºF (21.1ºC), and alcohol speeds along that process.  
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it flushes fluids out of our system through urination. Our body also uses sweat as a way to cool us down when we’re hot. These two responses work in tandem to amplify fluid loss in the heat. As we lose fluids and become dehydrated, our electrolytes become imbalanced. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can increase our risk for developing heat exhaustion or heat stroke. 
  • Sunburn sensitivity. Alcohol increases the risk for sunburn, but this isn’t just from poor decisions like not wearing sunscreen. Alcohol reduces the concentration of antioxidants in our skin that help us fight or prevent the damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. A 2012 study confirmed that drinking alcohol in direct sunlight led to visible sunburn significantly sooner or with less UV exposure.

Does Alcohol Go Bad in Heat? 

We know alcohol works differently on us when it’s hot out, but does the heat do things to alcohol? Whether we forgot our alcohol in our hot car or on the porch, we still want to know if it is safe to drink.

Luckily, the answer is pretty straightforward: leaving alcohol in heat and direct sunlight can degrade it, but it’s still safe to drink. High heat can evaporate alcohol and impact the flavor and quality of beverages like wine or beer, producing a skunky flavor. It won't be pleasant, but it’s safe to drink (at least, it’s no less safe than normal alcohol).

While it may not be particularly deadly to drink alcohol that’s been heated, that doesn’t mean it’s safe for us to drink alcohol when we are hot. Read on to learn some of the risks of drinking in the hot sun.

Risks of Drinking in the Sun

Risks of Drinking in the Sun

As we learned above, our bodies respond differently to alcohol when it is hot outside. As much as we may love to cool off with an ice-cold drink on a hot summer day, there are risks associated with this pleasure. Let’s review some of the risks of day drinking in the peak of summer. 

  • Dehydration. As our body heats up, it tries to cool off naturally by sweating. Spending extended periods of time in the sun causes our body to shed hydration and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Alcohol does the same thing. With their powers combined, we end up losing fluids at twice the rate. We can reach a dangerous level of dehydration faster. Signs of dehydration include thirst, infrequent urination, dry skin, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, confusion, dry mouth, rapid heart rate, and rapid breathing. 
  • Heat illness. Our bodies are less able to regulate our body temperature when we drink alcohol. The lack of proper thermoregulation makes us vulnerable to heat illnesses. There are three phases of heat illness which progressively get more dangerous. In phase one, we experience cramps in the legs, arms, or abdomen as a result of electrolyte deficiency. Phase two is known as heat exhaustion, which is characterized by faintness, dizziness, fatigue, rapid pulse, low blood pressure upon standing, muscle cramps, nausea, and headaches. Phase three is heat stroke, which can be deadly. Some symptoms of heat stroke include pounding heart, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or coma.
  • Sunburn. As we drink alcohol, our skin isn’t as able to protect us from UV light which means it takes a lot less sun exposure to lead to sunburn. As the alcohol takes effect, we tend to become lackadaisical and may slip up in our regular sun protection measures, and if we fall asleep in the sun, the results can be painful — or dangerous. Drinking while the sun is out can lead to sunburn or even severe sunburn called sun poisoning, a form of radiation sickness that may require medical treatment. 
  • Accidents. Our higher order thinking (planning, reasoning, and decision making) becomes impaired when we drink alcohol. It’s especially dangerous to be on or near the water when drinking. In fact, nearly one third of boating fatalities involve alcohol. We’ve all heard about drinking and driving — and that includes driving boats, too. In fact, it’s even possible to get a DUI for driving a boat while intoxicated! Since alcohol can make our coordination worse, swimming while drinking can also be dangerous. 

Drinking and the heat can be a risky combination! The simple answer is to take it easy while drinking out in the sun. But let’s also consider some other ways we can stay safe while drinking alcohol in the dead of summer. 

Staying Safe in the Sun

Although drinking in the heat can be dangerous, it is possible to have a good time while being careful. Below are some ways we can ensure we have a safe drinking experience when it’s hot outside. 

  • Hydrate. It’s important to drink plenty of water while drinking alcohol and while in the sun. When we’re doing both at the same time, it’s doubly important. A safe bet is drinking 8 ounces of water for every alcoholic drink. 

  • Find a ride. Have a safe way to get home — like a sober driver or a taxi service. In the summer, many municipalities run late-night transportation.

  • Moderate intake. Drink in moderation and take it easy. The summer is a time to enjoy life and make some vitamin D. Give yourself time to enjoy the warm, sunny days and build memories you’ll still remember the next day.
  • Eat well. Make sure you eat food while drinking. A full stomach slows alcohol metabolism, ensuring you won’t get too intoxicated too quickly. Have meals or snacks throughout the day with plenty of healthy fat and protein.
  • Protect yourself. Wear sunscreen or sun-protective clothing. Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day — and every 20 minutes if you’re swimming or sweaty!
  • Listen to your body. If you feel tired, stop. Take a rest. Cool off. Seek the shade or cool off inside if you are starting to overheat.

  • Drink without the alcohol. Try some summery non-alcoholic drinks or mocktails to cool off while hydrating.

  • Time your adventures. Avoid being outside for too long during the peak sun hours of 12 to 4 p.m. 

By following these tips, you can ensure a fun, safe, and memorable summer. Enjoy it — it only comes once a year!

Key Takeaways

Alcohol affects us differently when we drink in the hot sun: we are more susceptible to sunburn, dehydration, and overheating. To have a safe summer, it’s best to drink in moderation, have a plan if we need a ride or help, wear plenty of sunscreen, and drink plenty of water throughout the day. 

Summary FAQs 

1. Does alcohol make you more sensitive to the sun?

Yes, drinking alcohol in the sun makes us more susceptible to sunburn by reducing the level of antioxidants in the outer layer of our skin.

2. What happens when you drink alcohol in hot weather?

Drinking alcohol in hot weather makes us more susceptible to dehydration, heat illnesses, and sunburn.

3. Is it bad for alcohol to be exposed to summer heat?

If alcohol is in direct sunlight or reaches a temperature that’s too hot for too long, it can degrade and change the flavor or aromas. But heat does not make alcohol unsafe. 

4. Does alcohol dehydrate you?

Yes, alcohol is a diuretic and dehydrates us by making us urinate.

5. What can I do to stay safe while drinking in the sun? 

Hydrate with plenty of water, wear sun protection, drink in moderation, and avoid peak sun times. 

Enjoy a Hot Sober Summer With Reframe! 

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 forum and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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