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Sun drunk: What it is and how to avoid it

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Shreveport, La (KTAL/KMSS) — Many across the U.S. have experienced a hot summer and for some, that will likely continue through the Labor Day weekend. And while the unofficial end of summer is often marked with celebrations featuring alcoholic beverages, it’s important to avoid becoming ‘sun drunk.’

It’s hardly a secret that drinking while in the hot summer sun can have consequences.

Among those is an increased risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Research has shown that, after drinking alcohol, the UV light necessary to burn your skin is significantly less than when you haven’t had alcohol.

However, sun drunkenness is more than applying sunscreen and ‘slip, slop, slap, sleek, slide’.

What is sun drunk?

According to LSU Health Shreveport Clinical Assistant Professor Kabiul Haque, “sun drunk” combines intoxication, dehydration, heat drying the skin, fatigue, lightheadedness/dizziness, and weakness.

“Drinking under the sun can worsen dehydration because people sweat a lot and get dehydrated much faster,” says Dr. Haque.

He notes that he sees many patients with acute kidney injuries mainly due to dehydration, sun drunkenness, and severe heat illnesses.

When your body becomes dehydrated — from alcohol or general dehydration — the sodium and potassium levels, more commonly known as electrolytes, become imbalanced, Dr. Haque explains.

“And when people sweat a lot, their sodium gets depleted — and sodium is an important electrolyte. It can get depleted under the sun and with alcohol.”

How to avoid being sun drunk

Dr. Haque says the number one thing is to stay hydrated — with water, not alcohol.

He says the four electrolytes — sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus — are essential to avoid the effects of sun drunkenness. These can also be found in sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade.

If possible, drink in moderation, alternating with water, staying in the shade and on a cooler surface.

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