The Heat and Alcohol


You can stand here with me if you want but you’ll have to agree not to talk about the heat –  from the movie Body Heat


What is it about the sluggish, dog-star days of summer that has us all strapped for conversation? Normally articulate people enter rooms like extras in British farces – a door slams, they droop stage left, bedraggled and wet and say (deadpan enough to get a laugh), “It’s hot.”


The response is usually, “I know,” or someone spouts a ten day weather forecast, indicating the heat wave is here to stay. We all nod out heads dumbly…


I have lived in Florida and The Bahamas for the past 25 years, so I have a close relationship with the heat. When I was drinking, it always made me feel drunker when I had wine on the boat, or during the hottest part of the day. People often deal with the heat by reaching for a cold drink containing alcohol (I certainly made sure my wine was in the cooler in the old days), but extreme heat and alcohol can be a cocktail for injuries, illness and even death.


I don’t want to be a summer downer, or a smug, look-at-sober-me know it all, but alcohol lowers the body’s tolerance for heat and acts as a diuretic. It also affects the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Alcohol raises the body’s blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heat-related illness like hyperthermia, over-heating and heat-stroke – especially for people with high blood pressure.


Alcohol and heat both dilate the blood vessels, making us all more susceptible to drunkenness and passing out – not a pretty sight in a two-piece…


Then there’s the accidents. Almost a third of all boating and swimming fatalities are alcohol related. Hazelden Betty Ford says, “Alcohol interferes with balance, coordination and judgment. These effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat. This means that you can put yourself at risk during hot weather activity even if you don’t have much to drink.

Impaired judgment caused by alcohol increases the risk of injury. Alcohol causes a loss of inhibitions and leads to reckless behavior. People impaired by alcohol misjudge swimming distances, how cold the water is, and when it’s safe to operate a motor vehicle.”


When I think of all the times I snorkeled alone in the Staniel Cay Creek, after drinking a bottle of wine, I absolutely panic. So many things could have happened while I was “beating the Bahamian heat.” I may be preaching to the choir (and I hate going to church and being lectured about church attendance…), but if you drink, be careful out there. If you don’t drink, be a designated boat driver – be a watchful friend.


And can we be a bit more creative when we enter an air-conditioned room looking for sympathy? Let’s supplant “hot” with, “It’s: balmy, summery, tropical, broiling, searing, blistering, sweltering, torrid, sultry, muggy, close, boiling, baking, roasting, burning, feverish, sweaty, flushed or my favorite,


“It’s very warm.”


Today I’m not drinking because it’s too hot.


How come you’re not drinking?