Having a Cold One Out in the Cold? 5 Safety Tips
Drinking alcohol in the cold can put you at higher risk for hypothermia, dehydration and injury. Get five cold-weather alcohol safety tips.
“Have a shot of whiskey — it’ll warm you up!” You’ve likely heard that saying (or something similar) but don’t let it fool you. Truth: Cold-weather drinking is dangerous.
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“Alcohol and exposure to cold is a dangerous combination,” says emergency medicine specialist Thomas Waters, MD. “If you’re going to drink in cold weather, you should know how to prepare.”
Here’s what you can expect if you decide to imbibe at your next playoff season tailgate.
When you drink, your blood vessels dilate, sending more blood to your skin. It makes you feel warmer, but you’re actually losing your body heat to the outside environment faster.
Basically, you’re turning on your radiator to send your heat out into the environment. You might feel warm, but it creates a dangerous situation.
While it may help prevent frostbite in your fingers, sending blood to your skin takes it away from your core, heart, vital organs and brain. As a result, your body temperature drops.
This is particularly dangerous if you have heart problems.
Feeling warm and taking off your jacket, sweater or gloves outside increases your hypothermia risk.
Snow increases the danger, as well. If you get wet, you’ll lose heat 25 times faster, Dr. Waters says.
The more you drink, the more frequently you’ll need to use the bathroom.
“Alcohol causes you to urinate a lot, which speeds up dehydration,” he says. “That, in turn, can make you more prone to hypothermia.”
While the safest option is to avoid drinking in the cold, if you choose to drink, follow these tips to help keep yourself safe, Dr. Waters says.
Most importantly, keep in mind that drinking in cold weather has the potential for danger.
“Just remember — everything in moderation,” Dr. Waters says. “Having proper knowledge of the situation and preparing for it can keep you out of harm’s way.”