Change everything you know about alcohol and hypothermia

by daisy

Popular media may have us believe that drinking alcohol helps us increase our body temperature. However, recent research shows us that this is completely untrue.

While drinking alcohol may make you feel as though you’re warming yourself up, you’d actually be doing yourself a disservice. Drinking alcohol can drastically decrease your body temperature. In a hypothermic situation, this can actually have unintended dire consequences.

Giving yourself the illusion that you are warmer than you truly are while actually decreasing your body temperature is likely one of the most dangerous things you can do for yourself. This is doubly true if you find yourself already in danger of falling victim to hypothermia.

As you likely know, drinking alcohol can inhibit a lot of important bodily functions. In the case of the regulation of your body temperature, this is no different. The body operates under a series of important reflexes, such as attempting to keep your body running hot even when it’s cold outside.

However, when one drinks alcohol, one sees this temperature regulation be thrown right out the window. According to physicians, this effect begins to take place even after just one alcoholic drink.

But why does one feel warmer when drinking alcohol? That process is all thanks to one neat trick. When you drink alcohol, one’s blood vessels begin to dilate. This means that more and more blood is brought to the surface of the skin, which in turn makes you feel warm.

This trick does more harm than good, however, as you’ve now tricked your body into thinking it no longer needs to work to regulate your body’s temperature. In fact, your body has been tricked and will soon stop trying to defend you from cold temperatures.

What’s more, the blood that has just rushed to the surface of your skin is going to cool very quickly, especially if you are in the cold. This is made worse by your body thinking it is warm. It is likely your body may even begin to sweat as a response to the feeling of increased heat, rapidly cooling you even faster.

While your skin may continue to feel warm, all of your body’s processes will likely be working to make you colder than ever before. Because of this, if you are in a situation where you are truly in danger of experiencing hypothermia, drinking alcohol is likely the last thing you will want to do.

In addition, you will likely experience the sensation of heat for another reason entirely. As your body attempts to metabolize the alcohol you are drinking, your liver will likely give off more heat. What’s more, the illusion of heat does your body even more damage by redirecting your blood flow in the first place.

During normal, daily operations, your blood flows between your vital organs as it should in order to most efficiently keep your regulatory processes operating as per usual.

When your blood flow is interrupted as you drink alcohol, less blood travels to your essential organs. In a situation where you may be facing hypothermia, putting your vital organs in danger is likely one of the last things you’ll want to do.

Drinking alcohol in this situation will likely make you colder than ever before and trick your body into thinking you are warm when you are not. In fact, if you find yourself attempting to drink alcohol in order to stop hypothermia, you’ll likely find your body’s temperature decreasing more rapidly than ever. With the illusion that you’re warmer, you might find yourself at risk of death without ever even seeing it coming.

Overall, there is a slew of reasons why drinking alcohol is an especially bad idea when facing hypothermia, despite what you may think.

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