Did you know that having one alcoholic drink can cause your core body temperature to drop? Those that drink a lot of alcohol or have a cold intolerance should take this into consideration during winter. “Consumption of alcohol undoes many of the human body’s healthy reflexes, one of which is keeping the core body temperature warm in cold weather,” according to Dr. William Haynes, director of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Iowa.
Alcohol is a vasodilator. This means that when consumed, capillaries found under the surface of your skin dilate. The volume of blood that is brought to the surface of your skin increases, causing you to feel warm. It also causes you to look a little flushed. This is why those that are intoxicated seem to always look a little red faced.
When blood vessels dilate, it causes your body to override its own defenses toward cold weather. As your body tries to get this defense back, it constricts the blood vessels, causing blood to flow less, while keeping body temps up.
It might seem like everything works itself out eventually, but that isn't the case. According to mentalfloss.com, "Someone enjoying a drink in the cold may feel warmer from the extra blood warming his skin, but that blood will rapidly cool thanks to the chill in the air. Plus, the warmth caused by blood rushing to the skin will also make him sweat, decreasing his core temperature even further. The rapid drop often occurs without the drinker realizing it, because his skin will still feel fairly warm, which makes it doubly dangerous to drink alcohol in extremely cold weather." Unfortunately, coffee or any other caffeinated drink has the same effect on our bodies, as well.
Taking all of this information into consideration, one might decide to lay off the alcohol during time spent out in cold weather. The next time you're at an outdoor party with alcohol in the mid-winter, rethink your decision to have a few drinks. Your body can't handle the back and forth of the temperatures. It can cause you to feel worse in the morning. The age-old idea that alcohol warms us up in cold weather isn't actually true. It does for a moment, then causes our temps to drop back down.
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