Feeling tipsy after just a glass? Here’s the science behind heatwave drunkenness.
In the chaotic news of the past week, you may have missed the story of the woman who was asked to leave a match at Wimbledon after player Nick Kyrgio accused her of being too drunk. In her defence, she said she’d only drank one Pimm’s and a glass of rosé, but that she had forgotten her hat in the heat.
Whether she was drunk or not isn’t for us to decide, but most of us can probably relate to feeling more tipsy than expected in the sunshine. But why is it that alcohol seems to affect us more in the heat?
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“Being exposed to sunshine and hot temperatures can make you sweat more so we might be less hydrated than usual when we start drinking,” says Dr Bryony Henderson, lead GP at the digital health provider Livi.
The impact of that is that your blood alcohol levels rise more quickly, meaning the same amount of booze can leave you feeling worse off.
“On top of that, alcohol is a diuretic, equivalent doses bumex lasix which encourages your kidneys to lose extra fluid and causes you to pee more, making it even more likely you’ll get dehydrated,” Dr Henderson adds.
What’s more, alcohol has an impact on your core body temperature. Yes, beer blankets really are a thing. “It is a vasodilator, meaning it makes the blood vessels bigger, so your face gets redder and your heart rate gets faster.
“You experience this as an increase in skin temperature and therefore your brain registers warmth,” says Dr Henderson.
According to Dr Luke Powles, clinical director for Bupa Health Clinics, “In warm weather, this rise in temperature means the body struggles to cool down and can lead to further dehydration and heat exhaustion.”
Concerningly, Dr Powels says that this means our tipsiness might not actually be the booze. “The symptoms of dehydration and heat exposure can often be quite similar to feeling drunk, for example, feeling sick, tired, confused or having trouble with your coordination,” he explains.
“It’s especially important to cool yourself down if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, otherwise it can lead to heatstroke which needs emergency intervention.”
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If there ever was a reason to follow the rule of a glass of water for every alcoholic drink, it’s got to be that. “As dehydration plays such a big part in increasing the risks of drinking alcohol in a heatwave, it’s really important to make sure that you’re topping up your body’s water supplies. Switch up your alcoholic drinks with plenty of water or soft drinks to help keep your hydration levels high,” reminds Dr Powels.
He also encourages us to measure our booze, like using a unit measurer rather than free pouring drinks at home, to avoid the chance of drinking too much by accident. Of course, avoiding drinking entirely is the only way to avoid any unintended drunkenness, whether you’re courtside or not.
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