Saturday, January 4, 2014

The deadly mix of alcohol and cold weather

Dang, it is cold outside and getting colder in many regions.  In parts of the United States, we're looking at -70 degree Fahrenheit wind chills this weekend.  Alcohol, does NOT help warm you up.  It just might kill you.

The extreme cold temperatures bring about a warning or two about hypothermia. Hypothermia is a potentially fatal condition causing a change in your total body core temperature. A normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees, plus or minus one degree. But, with the extreme cold temperatures, it doesn`t take long for your body to fall below 94 degrees.

Hypothermia can cause problems with metabolism, organs and blood flow as well as disorientation or confusion. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.

One of the leading causes of hypothermia is alcohol abuse. When temperatures are this low, it’s important to wear clothing appropriate for extreme cold weather. However, bundling up doesn’t do much to counter the alcohol in the system. Alcohol abusers and those with the disease of alcoholism experience a sensation of warmth due to the alcohol, especially at higher concentrations. The sensation is not actual warming. Alcohol thins blood and increases blood flow near the skin, particularly in the extremities. The blood near the skin cools in the extreme temperatures, leading to hypothermia.

"Usually the instances you see are people who are intoxicated. You know, zero to negative 10 degrees is very unfriendly to drunk people. You know if you passed out in Orlando tonight, you`d probably get hypothermia and likely survive. If you passed out, tonight, in the Midwest, you wouldn`t survive it. It`s just the nature of it," said Dr. Lane Lee, Trinity Health Trauma Surgeon.

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