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Wednesday, December 08, 2021
More than 80 Badger fans found themselves in emergency medical cooling facilities during last week's record hot  game, and alcohol can definitely be to blame.

More than 80 Badger fans found themselves in emergency medical cooling facilities during last week's record hot  game, and alcohol can definitely be to blame.

Mixing drinks with record gameday heat sends Badger fans to ‘medical cooling centers’

Why staying hydrated matters when game days heat up

For some Badgers fans, a surprise loss to Brigham Young University was made worse by an emergency stint in an onsite medical cooling facility, after they spent an afternoon watching the second hottest game ever played at Camp Randall Stadium.

The game was record-breaking heatwise — temperatures soared in the mid 80s and clear skies offered little relief from the sun — and it also saw the Badgers break their 41 home game winning streak against non-conference opponents, which had stood since 2003.

While the game itself may have been sobering for die-hard fans, the UW-Madison Police Department reported it issued 19 underage drinking citations and made 20 arrests in the stands, as well as ejected 42 stadium-goers. Three people were taken to detox by the time the day was over.

In all, UWPD reported 82 game attendees had to be taken to medical cooling centers after suffering dizziness, confusion, nausea and cramping — all symptoms related to heat stroke and dehydration.

Heat exposure can be serious by itself, but adding alcohol to the equation only exacerbates its effects, warned Dr. Bill Kinsey, a University Health Services specialist.

“The effects of heat and alcohol are basically that you are multiplying the effects on the body from dehydration,” Kinsey said. “The combination of dehydration and alcohol’s other direct effects change our ability to regulate our core temperature. That leads to elevations in core temperatures that are beyond what they would be without alcohol.”

Acting alone, alcohol lowers blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. Heat also causes drops in blood pressure, when vessels near the skin widen to help cool you off. Multiply heat and alcohol, and you may experience intensified side effects of each — like dizziness and fainting — much faster, and with more severity.

The combination of excessive heat, dehydration and alcohol can also stress and damage internal organs, and increase the risk of heat stroke. Students who find themselves in this situation may not even realize it immediately, according to Kinsey, and will probably have to be taken to cooling chambers, where their core temperatures can be lowered artificially.

“Alcohol has other negative cognitive effects,” Kinsey said. “What you end up with is an individual who is perceiving the effects of heat incorrectly, as well as having other internal regulation systems causing your body to become dehydrated and overheat.”

If you plan on drinking, Kinsey said the best way to avoid heat illness is to take hydration seriously. He also recommended planning ahead — for instance, if you have tickets, pace yourself during the ‘pregame’ or skip it all together. Even your activities the night or two before can set you up for dehydration later on.

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