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Around Our Town: Saftey

Getting into the Holiday Spirits

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12/01/2009 - With the additional stress, partying, gift giving, feelings of loneliness, and depression increasing during the holiday season, alcohol use increases, as well. The season also generates more air and road travel, making alcohol and traveling ar dangerous mix.

If traveling by plane, for example, drinking alcohol can create problems from discomfort to life-threatening conditions to changes in behavior. It also creates problems for the other passengers and flight crew.

Cabin crews from 206 commercial airlines ranked over-consumption of alcohol at the top of their list of factors that trigger air rage attacks on planes. And, with new security measures slowing down the boarding process, alcohol enhances frustrations from delays, stress, smoking bans, and other factors. For the infrequent air traveler, the stress of just getting on the plane encourages alcohol consumption.

The Aerospace Medical Association states that numerous conditions created within the cabin of an airplane are complicated when alcohol is used. A pressurized cabin, for example, provides an atmosphere equal to being atop a small mountain at between 5,000-8,000 feet. That reduces oxygen levels in the body. Add alcohol and the body's metabolism slows, which slows the breathing rate and heart rate, reducing the oxygen levels further.

Alcohol dehydrates the cells within the body. On long flights, drinking alcohol with the reduced humidity level in the cabin (generally less than 20% humidity) can cause skin and eye irritation, particularly for contact lens wearers. So, increase water intake before and during the flight. Also select water and juices over alcohol or caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks.

Exposure to a colder climate with high levels of alcohol in the body can increase the likelihood of hypothermia a generalized cooling of the body that can become dangerous. To reduce this risk, reduce the alcohol intake while ensuring proper clothing is available to wear once you arrive at your destination. A short-sleeve shirt is no match to standing outside in below freezing temperatures while waiting for the rental car or for public transportation.

Leaving a cold climate for hot can be dangerous when alcohol is involved. The sudden change in temperatures won't allow the body to adapt to the change quickly enough, leading to increased sweating and loss of body fluids. Since alcohol is both a dehydrator and body depressant, a person's ability to adjust to a sudden temperature change can cause problems with the heart, blood pressure, response and reaction time, and slow the decision-making process.

Parties are great for family and friends to celebrate the season and the new year. But don't drink and drive. Alcohol affects work faster when on an empty stomach. Eating something when drinking helps absorb the alcohol and reduce its effects on the body. That alone can help reduce the chance of driving while intoxicated as well as doing something stupid or embarrassing while at the party.

So, this year, have a great holiday season by acting responsibly as we continue to hope for peace on earth and goodwill toward all men!

Randy DeVaul is an internationally published writer/author and safety consultant. He is the creator of 'Safe At Home' (www.safeathomeonline.com). Comments always welcome at safetypro@roadrunner.com.

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