Drinking at the beach can be risky. Here's what experts want you to know about dehydration, drowning.

How to stay safe while drinking at the beach, pool or lake this summer. (Getty Creative)
How to stay safe while drinking at the beach, pool or lake this summer. (Getty Creative)

For many, the ideal summer includes plenty of time relaxing at the beach, pool or lake. Often these activities include an alcoholic beverage, whether it’s a canned hard seltzer, ice-cold beer or a fruity cocktail garnished with a tiny umbrella.

But while partying poolside or sipping a margarita with your toes in the sand may sound like fun, drinking alcohol near water and under a blazing sun comes with some real safety risks. Here’s what health experts want you to know about avoiding dehydration, heat illness and accidents.

If you’re drinking, you should be extra cautious around pools, lakes and the ocean. (It’s worth noting that, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of accidental drownings have increased in the United States after years of decline.)

“Alcohol impairs judgment, coordination and reaction times, making activities like swimming or boating much riskier,” Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider tells Yahoo Life. “Drowning risks increase significantly with alcohol consumption because a person's ability to assess their swimming strength and the water's depth and currents is impaired.” To stay safe near water, avoid swimming after drinking alcohol, she says.

You should also be cautious about alcohol when choosing whether or not to go on a boat. “Laws vary by location, but it is illegal to drive a boat while drinking and similar to riding in a car, you should never ride with someone who is drinking or who has been recently drinking,” Dr. Kathryn Hawk, a physician at Yale Medicine who specializes in addiction, tells Yahoo Life.

Dr. David Deyhimy, an addiction medicine specialist and anesthesiologist, tells Yahoo Life that according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 60% of boating fatalities may involve alcohol. A boat driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.1 is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than someone with a BAC of 0, he adds.

But it’s also risky to be a boat passenger who has been drinking, he says. “There are often intoxicated passengers on boats who are more likely to be injured or fall overboard and drown,” Deyhimy explains.

One of the biggest issues with drinking in the summertime — especially in intense sunshine — is dehydration. Ungerleider says that when temperatures rise, our bodies naturally work harder to regulate heat by sweating. Because alcohol is a diuretic — which means it causes our bodies to expel fluids at a faster rate — we can experience dehydration more quickly when drinking.

“Dehydration can exacerbate the heat's effects on the body, increasing the likelihood of heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” she says. “Symptoms of these conditions include dizziness, headache and fainting, which are more dangerous when you're away from immediate medical help.”

Deyhimy recommends these tips for anyone drinking alcohol while out in the sun:

  • Prehydrate with non-alcoholic beverages before drinking alcohol.

  • Dilute your alcoholic beverages with juice or water, and/or drink beverages with lower alcohol content.

  • Drink water, sports drinks, juice, etc., between each alcoholic beverage.

  • Eat a large meal before drinking and continue to eat throughout the day. Food slows the absorption of alcohol and intoxication.

  • Keep cool in shaded areas when possible. Reapply sunblock frequently.

If you’re sharing a pitcher of margaritas by the pool or are constantly replacing your half-empty lukewarm beer with a fresh one from the cooler, it can be difficult to judge just how much alcohol you’re consuming. For the record, Hawk notes that the NIAAA recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women, which is mostly based on gender differences in metabolism. Drinking five or more standard drinks (for men) or four or more (for women) in a span of two hours is considered binge drinking.

“You should be conscious of the number of drinks that you have ... as it can be easy to lose track of your drink number if you are outside over a prolonged period of time,” Hawk says.