Health Watch -- Swimming Under the Influence

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Alcohol and water can be a deadly combination.

A cold beer may seem like the perfect refreshment for a day at the lake or beach, but you may want to think twice before opening that drink. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of all the drownings in the United States involve the combination of alcohol and water recreation.

Emergency doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say it's especially important to be aware of the dangers of alcohol when you're around, in or on the water. Dr. Paul Pepe, UT Southwestern's chair of emergency medicine, says the danger is that alcohol impairs judgment and inhibitions. When you're drinking, you're more likely to do things you'd be more cautious about when sober, and you're more likely to make bad decisions.

Around water, that could get you into some dangerous situations.

Many drownings could be prevented if people just avoided drinking when they're around water or driving a boat. Boating under the influence of alcohol is generally prosecuted much like driving under the influence.

It's also important to set a good example for your children. Don't let them see you drinking before or during swimming or boating. Above all, don't drink when you're supposed to be supervising children around water. If your reflexes are diminished by the effects of alcohol, you may not be able to react in time to prevent an accident or come to the rescue if something happens.