Alcohol and Water Safety

by Katie Bogusz on August 8, 2017

Now that the weather is warming up many of us will be spending plenty of time in the water, whether it be a pool, lake, or beach.  On those 90 degree days in the summer sometimes there’s nothing better than taking a nice dip.  There can be dangers involved with any type of water activity, especially when alcohol is involved.  So read on about some of the dangers associated with alcohol and water safety and learn how you can stay safe this summer.


Why Alcohol and Water Don’t Mix: 

Alcohol is a leading factor in at least 20% of all adult drowning deaths annually.  The rates are even higher, 41%, for people between the ages of 15-29.  Here are some reasons the rates are so high:

  1. Alcohol impairs your judgement, it can distort your perception on whether a situation is risky or not and make you more confident of your own abilities.
  2. Alcohol increases risk taking behavior, it lowers your inhibitions which can make you more likely to take risks that you wouldn’t have if you were sober.
  3. Alcohol reduces coordination, it can lead to unsteadiness which can affect your ability to swim or to keep your balance.
  4. Alcohol impairs reaction time, it reduces the rate the brain processes information which causes your reaction time to slow down.

There are also physical changes that occur as a result of drinking alcohol that can interfere with your safety, these include:

  1. Disturbance of the inner ear: Fluid in the ear is responsible for balance. Alcohol and a sudden change in temperature can lead to disorientation.  A good example of this is diving into water, all of a sudden up can become down because of the combination of the sudden change in temperature and your alcohol consumption.
  2. Hypothermia: Alcohol increases blood flow to the arms and legs, even when the body would normally try to stop this to save heat loss. Fall into the water under the influence of alcohol, and hypothermia can kick in much earlier.
  3. Spasms of the Vocal Chords: Water in the windpipe triggers a closure of the windpipe. Alcohol increases the chance that a spasm of the vocal chords will occur, which can cause your airway to snap shut.  The combination of water and alcohol could potentially lock your airway closed.


How to Prevent Dangerous Situation from Occurring:

  1. Do not enter water if you have consumed alcohol
  2. Participate in aquatic activities before drinking and do not re-enter the water afterwards
  3. Refrain from consuming alcohol if you are supervising children playing in the water
  4. Avoid aquatic activity if you are alone
  5. Avoid aquatic activity at night


Be Safe this Summer: Practice Water Safety

Don’t risk your life or the life of others because you consume alcohol before going out to a body of water.  If you do choose to drink, be sure to do so before participating in any aquatic activities and do not go back into the water after you drink.  To learn more about Outreach Education as well as the BSU Peer Educators: like the BSU Outreach Education page on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and Twitter @bsuoutreach, and check out our calendar for upcoming events on the Involvement (IN) Network by visiting and searching for the BSU Peer Educators.

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