Some areas of the country are experiencing freezing temperatures for the first time this season. What has been mild weather for many has turned into sub-zero temperatures this week, and it has left many people trying to find ways to stay warm, including taking some risks with alcohol.
Alcohol Makes Us Feel Warm
Drinking alcohol gives us a warm, tingly feeling. Some people feel it after the first glass, while others require a little more to feel it. So then, naturally, many people are under the impression that alcohol warms your body temperature. What better way to warm up on a cold winter night than to gather around the fireplace with a hot toddy? People have been using this line of thinking for centuries, as St. Bernard dogs used to carry brandy in their collars to rescue and warm travelers in the Alps. According to doctors and scientists, however, drinking alcohol is not necessarily a safe way to get warm.
Losing Heat More Quickly
Alcohol makes us feel hot because it causes our blood vessels to dilate. The blood comes closer to the surface of our skin, which makes us feel warm. However, this also brings the person’s body heat away from their core and closer to the surface, causing heat to evaporate off the skin more quickly. The result is a cooler body temperature in the long run.
Alcohol is a depressant which means it slows down our entire system. It slows down circulation, which prevents oxygen from getting to the brain. This is why people die suddenly from drinking too much alcohol; their breathing becomes suppressed, their circulation slowed, and their brain becomes starved of oxygen.
A slower circulatory system also means that the blood is kept from making it to and warming extremities. In cold weather, we want to keep as much blood pumping to our hands and feet as possible in order to prevent frostbite and damage to our extremities.
In any cold weather, a person who drinks alcohol will feel warm at first, but before long will cool off quickly. They may notice that their hands and feet get especially cold. In extreme cold, people are advised not to drink alcohol, as it can slow circulation and cool the body enough to cause serious damage.
Alcohol also impairs judgment. A person consuming alcohol in freezing cold temperatures might be led to make some poor choices. More than one drinker has found themselves out in the elements, unprotected, or breaking through an icy lake because they lost control of their actions.
In moderation, alcohol can be consumed safely, even in cold situations. Always be careful, though, about the effect alcohol has on your body and mental capacity.