Alcohol increases your risk for hypothermia - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Alcohol increases your risk for hypothermia


This time of year folks gather for tailgating, winter sports or just hanging out. When alcohol gets involved, a few things begin to happen to our bodies. When we consume even one drink, our blood vessels dilate or expand and move warm blood closer to the skin, where most of our heat-sensing nerves are. That is why we get flushed after we've had a few. Because our bodies are pumping the warm blood to the skin, and making us "feel" warmer, our core body temperature lowers. Normally this is not a big deal, but when you are out in the cold, especially temperatures at or below freezing; it can be a big problem. Remember back to yesterday's blog, hypothermia is directly caused from a lowering of your core body temperature.

I've seen many people who have been drinking go outside to cool off-even in the dead of winter. Or maybe you are outside already and are feeling hot from drinking, so you start shedding layers of clothing. If temperatures are frigid, this will only speed up the hypothermia process.

Alcohol also impairs judgment (like shedding layers of clothing when it is 20 degrees outside). You may not realize how long you have been outside, how cold you are, or recognize hypothermia symptoms. Even if you are with people who are not drinking, there are symptoms of excessive drinking that are the same as hypothermia. Some of the similar symptoms are loss of coordination, confusion, drowsiness, and irrational behavior. So, from the outside, they may be easily confused or disregarded.


So this winter, if you are going to a party and you think you might be outside a while, or you are tailgating before a football game, and you're planning on having a few, be smart. Dress warm; wear a hat, gloves and a coat (you don't want frostbite either). Don't remove clothing if you are warm, head indoors instead (then remove clothing). Maybe have a chat with the D.D., to keep an eye on you and your friends.

Hypothermia can be deadly. The risks are even higher when alcohol is involved, so be safe this winter, and maybe have the party indoors.

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