Most of you might’ve heard that drinking alcohol or drinks with alcohol can keep you warm. There’s also the now universal image of St. Bernard dogs with brandy barrels attached to their collars to help travellers that are stranded in the snow in the European Alps.
But the belief that alcohol helps your body keep warm in cold times is also widespread. However, you will be more than just surprised to know that not only is this a myth, drinking alcohol while you are cold does nothing to keep you warm, but rather risks you even more vulnerable to diseases like hypothermia. Here’s the science behind why drinking alcohol to keep your body warm in cold temperatures is a really really bad idea.
Booze and Lose (Heat)
Scientifically speaking, any kind of alcohol is classified as a vasodilator, which essentially means that it causes the blood vessels in our body to dilate. This is especially true in the case of the capillaries that are right under the skin surface.
When you take a drink that has alcohol the dilation of the blood vessels makes the volume of blood increase to your skin’s surface, this is what makes you feel warm. And this is where the myth surfaces, because drinking alcohol makes you feel warm for the instance. This is also the reason why people who are intoxicated look flushed with red skin.
However, this can be incredibly dangerous because it renders your body’s defences against cool weather and temperatures useless. The body naturally has a way of constraining the flow of blood to your blood vessels which in turn minimises the flow of blood straight to your skin and helps keep the core temperature of your body high enough to keep you warm in cold weather.
But if someone is having a drink in a cold night or cold weather, they might feel warmer for the moment because of the extra blood in the skin that keeps them warm, but because of the cold air that surrounds you, that blood will cool rapidly. Also, this sudden warmth caused by increased blood flow might cause you to sweat, which again is incredibly dangerous for the core body temperature.
When you are drinking alcohol in cold weather, you tend to feel warm for a moment, and we’ve already covered why this happens. The more important thing to consider here is what happens after the moment of warmth passes.
There is a rapid drop in the core body temperature, which more often than not occurs without the person realising it because the skin might still feel warm. This is the reason driving alcohol in incredibly cold weather is dangerous for your health because it leaves your body to dangerous diseases such as hypothermia.
Alcohol also limits the body’s ability of shivering. This takes away another method that the body employs to keep you warm during cold weather.
Therefore, the myth that circulates about alcohol helping you keep warm in cold temperatures, is nothing but a myth, and you might want to save that drink for later when you are in a warmer place.