Alcohol as a Risk Factor

The use of alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors that can cause hypothermia.

Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning that it opens up peripheral blood vessels and allows blood to flow freely to the surface of the skin. That blood flow puts patients with alcohol in their bloodstream at risk for hypothermia while at the same time feeling as if they are nice and warm.

Alcohol makes you feel as if you are warm by moving all that nice, warm blood closer to the temperature receptors located in the skin. Alcohol has such a reputation for warming you up that it is often touted as an elixir against the cold. Hot Toddy’s are sold at nearly every ski lodge, luckily right next to the fireplace.

Unfortunately, blood so close to the surface allows more heat to escape the bloodstream and, ultimately, the body. Even though a drink or two may make you feel warm in the moment, you are now much more susceptible to hypothermia.

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