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The dangers of drinking in the sun

Last Modified: March 30, 2022

Safety & Prevention


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, medical director, Emergency Medicine, Parkview Health, offers some advice on how to protect yourself and avoid Emergency Department visits while still enjoying 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 to the harmful rays. It's smart to wear hats and other protective clothing while drinking plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. If you choose to consume alcohol, remember that this can make your sunburn worse and diminish your awareness of your body and surroundings. Every spring and summer, we see people 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, sustain a life-threatening injury or worse.

5 Sun Safety Tips 

For the reasons listed above, it's important to consider these simple actions and precautions before attending your next outdoor social gathering:

  • Make sure you have a designated boat and car driver from the start. 
  • Bring along plenty of bottles of water and drink them frequently, especially when consuming alcohol.
  • Apply sunscreen before you hit the water or the beach, and re-apply it often.
  • Don't forget snacks or meals. Make eating an important part of your day.
  • 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 exposed to sun and heat, can cause serious, life-threatening problems, including heart, kidney, or neurologic problems.

So as the weather turns warm, remember to plan ahead, have fun and stay safe!

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