By Derrick D. Billingslea.
The cold season is among us now, hot chocolate, tea, apple cider, etc. are drinks we love to sip in the winter. Another drink many like to indulge in is alcohol, and mixing it in something hot is called the famous “Hot Tottie”. Spare yourself from this potential deadly mix of cold weather and alcohol.
Alcohol may feel nice and hot going down but the truth is, drinking alcohol when it’s cold lowers your core temperature. Basic physics means that drinking a cold beverage will draw heat from your body, and drinking a hot beverage will add heat to your body. So, theoretically, alcohol shouldn’t add or subtract heat differently than any other beverage. The false sense of warmth you feel doesn’t translate to overall body temperature, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A study by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, published in 2005, found that after a single drink, the body tries to counteract the brief sensation of warmth caused by increased blood flow to the skin by ramping up its rate of sweating, which only decreases body temperature even further.
Why does it feel like I get warm when I drink alcohol?
The alcohol you ingest widens blood vessels under the skin, so they fill with warm blood. This overrides one of your body’s defenses against cold temperatures: Constricting your blood vessels, therefore minimizing blood flow to your skin in order to keep your core body temperature up. This will make you start to feel flushed or hot.
What effect could drinking alcohol in cold weather have on my body?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states, drinking alcohol in the cold can lead to hypothermia. Hypothermia can set in if your body drops below 95 degrees. The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, says drinking alcohol in chilly weather also reduces the body’s ability and tendency to shiver, taking away yet another method your body uses to help keep warm when it is cold. If you or your love one has a heart condition you should avoid drinking alcohol in cold weather.
What are the signs of hypothermia?
- Faster breathing
- Trouble speaking
- Slight confusion
- Lack of coordination
- Increased heart rate
Moderate to Severe
- Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Confusion and poor decision-making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Lack of concern about one’s condition
- Progressive loss of consciousness
- Weak pulse
- Slow, shallow breathing
Someone with hypothermia is usually not aware of his or her condition because the symptoms often begin gradually. Also, the confused thinking associated with hypothermia prevents self-awareness. This confused thinking can also lead to risk-taking behavior.
As mentioned before there are many beverages to keep you warm, try some that will not risk your life. Also read “Foods That Keep You Warm”
Derrick D. Billingslea is an alcoholism and addictions treatment professional with over two decades in recovery himself and he is the Founder and CEO of HUGS Recovery Centers, located in Atlanta, Georgia.