You’re on vacation in a tropical locale in the dead of January – it could be the Caribbean, Hawaii, or even an exotic global destination like Thailand or the Philippines.
And you want to celebrate your arrival after several day-long flights and inefficient local public transportation with a drink or five before gearing up the next day to go on your first of many dives.
Not a good idea.
Yes, it’s tempting to celebrate the start of your trip, the arrival of your friends, or just a good time in a new destination that’s teeming with bars, night clubs, and good-looking locals. You’re on vacation, after all.
But even when consumed the night before a dive, excessive drinking can negatively affect how you operate under the water, and how your body reacts to the pressurized environment. In addition, your body is often dehydrated after traveling, and you may lose more in perspiration in a warm climate. Dehydration prior to diving is a recipe for potential disaster.
Binge drinkers increase their chances of alcohol remaining in their system, and in some cases, an evening of drinks can affect your body for 10 hours or more. If you’ve woken up on the morning of a dive with a hangover, or you’re still feeling “foggy” and uncoordinated, chances are you’re in that arena.
Now some divers will say that once you hit the saltwater, that hangover or fogginess will go away, but in fact, once you’re underwater, the effects can be enhanced. When you’re breathing compressed air and you’re in a pressurized environment, the negative effects can actually be amplified, and can even last longer.
1) Alcohol affects your reaction times. You should always be at your most alert under the water, and alcohol slows your ability to react and make a quick decision when the situation calls for it, which creates a potentially dangerous scenario for even the most experienced diver.
2) Unpleasant physical effects. The after-effects of alcohol can make you drowsy, nauseous, and dehydrated — none of which are fun or easily dealt with when you’re deep underwater or on a rocking boat. In addition, alcohol can increase the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis.
3) Alcohol can affect your body temperature. Hypothermia is a real concern underwater, even in warm tropical climates, and alcohol speeds up the rate at which your body loses heat — which makes you even more susceptible to warm water hypothermia.
So does this mean you should avoid drinking throughout your vacation? Of course not.
But if you do go out, do it responsibly, and be mindful of your BAC, or at least save your “Big Night Out” for a night that’s not before a dive. By being smart, and keeping the hangover at bay, you and your entire dive crew will have a much better time enjoying your vacation.
While a cold beer on a hot day can taste like heaven, it’s best to avoid drinking at all before diving. However, if you find yourself drinking midday before your afternoon or evening dive, make sure you wait a few hours to let the alcohol metabolize completely.
Have you had any bad experiences drinking before diving? Let us know in the comments below!