Does a Hot Tub Make You More Drunk? (not exactly, here’s why)

I won’t lie. There have been many times I have relaxed in a hot tub with a beer or cocktail after a long hard day. But I’ve wondered does a hot tub make you more drunk?

I decided to research that and here’s what I learned:

Studies have not found a direct correlation between hot tubs & amplified effects of alcohol consumption. However, the heat combined with the intoxication can impair judgment & require larger amounts of water to be consumed to avoid dehydration. The heat can also dilate blood vessels, leading to feeling lightheaded.

But there’s a lot more to know about hot tubs and their effect on your body when drinking. And how to safely consume alcohol while enjoying your hot tub.

So let’s keep going!

In this article, we’re diving deep, so to speak, into the world of hot tubs and drinking.

We’ll explore alcohol’s effect on dehydration. But we’ll also look at whether a hot tub is a good idea the next day if you have a hangover.

Ultimately, we’re answering the question of does a hot tub make you more drunk.

What better way to enjoy a hot tub than with a crisp beer or cocktail in your hand? It seems a pairing as natural as milk and cookies.

Two rewarding treats that are both relaxing should naturally enhance each other, right?

Science proves that they actually do, maybe even more than you imagined.

But, you might want to be careful before you start pounding whiskey & colas in the tub to unwind. This enhancing effect could lead to more than you bargained for.

Does a hot tub intensify the effects of alcohol?

The short answer is yes, but not for the reasons you might think.

In fact, a recent study published by Physiology.org looked at men submerged in water at 104° F under the influence of alcohol “in low-to-moderate doses”.

Their study found that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol in a hot tub “does not affect thermoregulatory, cardiovascular, or psychophysical indexes of heat stress”.

Despite that, you may have noticed you feel a bit more tipsy than normal when imbibing in a hot tub.

Well, that’s not your imagination or some psychological placebo from feeling relaxed. It really does intensify alcohol’s effects; just not quite on a biological level.

A hot tub and alcohol produce some similar effects on the body. They both dehydrate, dilate blood vessels and raise your body temperature. The two work in tandem to give you a sort of one-two punch.

So you might get a lightheaded feeling where you normally wouldn’t while enjoying just one or the other alone.

I get that this all sounds pretty harmless. You might be thinking…

So… I’m going to feel drunker than normal with less booze. Sounds like a win. What’s the big deal?

Well, the combination of the intensifying effect along with other factors could be dangerous, or even fatal.

Of course, even without alcohol, a hot tub can make you dehydrated.

In a recent article, I break down exactly how and why that happens. But also some easy steps you can take to stay safe and continue to use your hot tub for as much as 30 minutes.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Is it bad to drink alcohol or get drunk in a hot tub?

The short answer to this is yes. And it is absolutely not recommended to get drunk.

When our body gets too hot, it uses sweat to regulate our internal temperature. So in a pool of steaming hot tub water, we lose this ability to regulate.

Combine that with our dilated blood cells and the rapid transfer of heat that occurs through the water and you have a potentially dangerous situation.

The resulting blood pressure drop caused by the above factors could make you faint upon standing, cause an injury or even put you to sleep in the water to drown if you’re not careful.

Maybe that sounds far fetched. I’ve certainly enjoyed a drink or three in a hot tub without issue but the data says otherwise.

According to a Scripps Howard News Service study, 335 Americans per year died in a hot tub on average from the years 1999-2003.

That’s nearly one person per day. While it was difficult to draw absolute conclusions from the study, using alcohol and other drugs was pointed to as the leading cause.

Another 1991 American Journal of Public Health study of safety in saunas and spas found alcohol to be the leading factor of death too. It was involved in 34% of all cases.

So, if you’re going to ignore this advice and drink anyway please do so extremely carefully. It’s also best to:

  • Lower the temperature of your hot tub to between 98-100° F
  • Don’t soak for more than 10 minutes before taking a break
  • Have a plastic bottle of water nearby to keep your body hydrated
  • Never use a hot tub alone
  • Avoid glass bottles or glasses

Should I sit in a hot tub less time if I’ve been drinking?

The obvious answer here is yes. But before we get into that, how long is it okay to sit in a hot tub without alcohol?

The truth is it’s hard to say because the number varies wildly from person to person. Common advice on manufacturer’s sites usually puts a safe time somewhere between 15-45 minutes.

And of course, how long you sit depends largely on the temperature of the water.

I go into much greater detail about hot tub time limits and temperatures in a recent article. I even cover the maximum safe soak time for each common temp setting.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

But the Public Health study above found that 2 out of 10 deaths occurred in under 10 minutes.

In fact, the participants, who were all stone sober, began to feel discomfort and symptoms of syncope (loss of consciousness due to low blood pressure) after just 10 minutes in a 102.2° F tub, and in just 5 minutes in a 105.9° F hot tub.

The earliest warning signs of syncope are:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness in standing
  • Tunnel vision
  • Drowsiness

Most of us know full well how alcohol hurts our judgment. The real danger comes from this impairment.

I can’t remember a single time I’ve thought, “man, I’m SO glad I had all those shots yesterday!” Yet, it always seems like a pretty good idea at the time.

The same concept applies to our ability to recognize our body’s signals that it’s time to get out of the water.

So if you do drink, keep it around 10 minutes max and try to be more aware of your body than normal. Set a timer on your phone to help you stay on track.

The moment you start feeling woozy, get out and remember to drink water.

Is a hot tub good for a hangover?

It’s tempting to take a dip in a hot tub after a heavy night of drinks.

You might gather handfuls of hot water, pour it down over your pounding head and face. And for a moment, it definitely seems to offers some relief. But, in the long run, it’s going to make your morning a whole lot worse.

Like I said, hot tubs and alcohol cause dehydration which is the main culprit in a nasty hangover.

The more time you’re in the tub, the more sweat your body tries to produce and the more hungover you’re likely to feel.

And before you plant a jug of H2O next to your tub and try to sweat out the poison, it’s not as simple as just dehydration.

Getting into a hot tub is already a bit taxing on your heart and blood circulation.

Your heart has to respond to the sudden dilation of blood, the change in blood pressure and your changing body temperature.

Getting in with a hangover is even worse since your body is particularly sensitive to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) during this phase.

Not only will a hot tub not help your hangover, but it also makes it worse and increases the risk of a more serious problem.

At this point I’m not sure why you’d still want to, but if you insist on doing this, keeping water nearby and sipping while you’re in would help ease the strain.

And try to keep your time inside to 5-10 minutes maximum.

What is the best temperature for a hot tub if I plan on drinking alcohol?

Again, this is another answer that will vary from person to person.

But, the absolute highest temperature you should ever set the tub at is 104° F. Most hot tubs these days can’t be set any higher. Exposure to anything beyond this can cause a heat stroke.

Personally, drinking or not, I like to set my hot tub to 98° F. That way I can soak longer before needing to get out. Since my kids love the hot tub too, that temp is a little kinder for them too.

It’s tough to find any science that supports an ideal temperature for drinking in a hot tub.

But why not err on the side of caution? 100° F is proven to be a safe temperature for most healthy adults. Setting it there to start might be a good starting point.

At the very least, turn it down a few degrees lower than usual and see how you feel after 10 minutes.

Of course, hot tub temperature settings are not only a matter of safety but also a matter of preference.

In a recent article, I get into each of the common temp settings and how long you can safely soak in each one. What really surprised me was how long you can soak if you set yours to 98° F.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about hot tubs and their effect on alcohol consumption?

In this article, we took a look at the world of hot tubs and how they impact how alcohol affects your body when drinking.

We looked at some urban myths about alcohol and hot tubs. But we also explored some hard truths about dehydration and the dangers of using a hot tub when you’ve had too much to drink.

Ultimately, we answered the question does a hot tub make you drunker?

I have to admit… Drinking a cocktail or beer in a hot tub can be a great way to unwind after a long day. And I’m certainly not here to tell you not to; I do it too.

But I urge you to practice some caution and consider the risk vs. reward.

With the nice enhancing effect comes higher risk. Remember to be kind to your heart and don’t stay too long. Keep the temperature a bit lower than usual, stay hyper-aware of your body’s signals and most importantly get out at the first signs of trouble.

And by all means, don’t drink alcohol while sitting alone in the hot tub. Make sure that an end of the day reward doesn’t accidentally turn into a nightmare.

Confused about hot tub chemicals?

Hot tub chemicals can be really confusing. How much to add? Which ones do you really need, and are all of them totally necessary?

I take ALL the confusion out of hot tub chemicals in a recent article.

I not only get into exactly which products you need but also the chemicals that are a waste of money.

Then I also examine the chemicals that are the best for sensitive skin. That way you can (hopefully) avoid the dreaded hot tub rash.

Just click the link to read that on my site.


Pictures which require attribution:

Hot tub with a view by RyAwesome is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, hot tub lover, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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