This New Year’s Eve, party-goers will go out and about to ring in the New Year in subzero and freezing temperatures.

Some will rely on an extra layer of warmth that is not a coat. A “beer blanket” or “liquor coat” is considered by many a great way to keep warm, but it can actually be very dangerous.

“Alcohol causes the blood vessels in your skin to dilate, so when your blood vessels dilate, you get more blood flow to your skin and you actually feel relatively warmer,” Dr. Matt Gratton with Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill explained.

According to Gratton, alcohol makes your body do the opposite of what it should do in the cold. Vessels need to constrict to keep blood flow in your core so you can stay warm. When alcohol dilates blood vessels, you lose heat even faster.

“You’ll feel like you’re warm for a little while, but in fact you’re losing body temperature and cooling off faster than you would otherwise,” Dr. Gratton added.

If you experience pain or numbness when you are out in the cold, both can be early signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Gratton told us just like with burns, frostbite symptoms can be as minor as redness and peeling or as severe as losing tissue. Severe cases can even require amputation. 

If you begin to experience symptoms, you should go inside or cover up. Gratton advised against rubbing your hands together to warm them because it can damage the tissue. 

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