I’ll paint a picture for you:
It’s a chilly evening but not freezing yet. There is a light wind out of the north and jack frost nipping at your nose. You’re out in town with a couple of friends or family for dinner, and you’ve forgotten your jacket. You think to yourself, “a drink or two will warm me up, I don’t need my coat”, and press on with your evening.
Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be Weather Myths, Debunked if that thought were true, in fact, it is the exact opposite.
Alcohol is a vasodilator, it causes your blood vessels to dilate, particularly the capillaries that reside just under the surface of your skin. The drink or two that you thought would help would actually lower the core temperature of your body. What it does help is increase the risk of you developing hypothermia, which is when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. You start to develop after your body temperature falls below 95° F. Alcohol will make you not shiver as much compared to when you’re not drinking, according to a study done by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. This absolutely doesn’t help because shivering is one way that the body tries to recreate the warmth it needs.
Now don’t be too nervous here, on average people who develop hypothermia have been exposed to cold and freezing temperatures. Most cases occur in air temperatures of 50° F to 30° F, and can of course develop in temperatures below that. Now, people can still succumb to having their body temperature drop even at 60° F or 70° F degrees outdoors. This is especially true when it is breezy or windy, wind can carry away more heat than the body can generate. Another case is when people get wet or land in water, cold water accelerates heat loss up to 25 times faster than if you were dry.
The Bottom Line:
If you know the temperature outdoors is on the cooler side, prepare for it, bring a jacket, or have a way to stay warm. Don’t rely on alcohol to “make you feel warm” because it may feel that way for the first few minutes, but that feeling won’t last. If you are cold, drinking alcohol is the last thing you should do.
Remember to please drink responsibly