Behind the Forecast: Summer heat and alcohol don’t mix

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Science Behind the Forecast: Summer heat vs. alcohol

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It’s hot! As temperatures rise this summer grabbing a drink is an easy way to cool down. If you’re reaching for an alcoholic drink, it may actually do more harm than good.

During the summer we face the typical heat illnesses: heat exhaustion, heatstroke, dehydration and sun sensitivity. Here's how alcohol can exacerbate each.

On average, Louisville sees highs in the mid to upper 80s.

Alcohol is a diuretic. This means that it makes you urinate more than usual since your kidneys are releasing more water. It keeps your body from reabsorbing water by blocking the ADH hormone. If you add sweating to the mix that means your body is losing enough water to cause headaches, dizziness and even overheating. Also alcohol is a vasodilator; it dilates and widens blood vessels. This makes it easier for body heat to rise to the skin’s surface actually makes the body give off heat.


Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is exposed to excessive heat. Symptoms include, swelling legs, cramps and fainting. Since alcohol is already affecting fluid levels, it’s important to hydrate properly to combat the heat exhaustion.

It doesn’t take much for heat exhaustion to turn to heat stroke. With heat stroke, body temperatures can rise into the low 100s since it is unable to efficiently get rid of the heat. Alcohol makes it harder for the body to regulate its temperature. Other symptoms include: headaches, shallow breathing and a rapid heart rate. This is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention.

And then there’s phytophotodermatitis. Some people have suffered garish injuries after mixing certain drinks and medicines with sunshine.Lime and lemon juice on the skin can react with UV rays causing “margarita dermatitis” or phytophotodermatitis. The offending compound can be found in citrus fruits, celery, Queen Anne’s Lace and parsley. It reacts with the skin in s way that leaves exposed areas extremely sensitive to the sun. Ultraviolet light reacts with the chemicals on the skin, irritating it and leading to a reaction that looks like a poison ivy rash or sunburn; blisters can even occur.

At the end of the day it’s all about drinking responsibly.

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