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Drinking and Body Temp


Ever notice how drinking alcoholic beverages in the summer can make you feel hotter, but that drinking in the winter can often make you colder? What gives? According to the folks who study such things, drinking makes you feel warmer no matter what the season, but its net effect is to cool off the body. Alcohol is what's known as a vasodilator - no, it's not a sexual thing, it causes the blood vessels to expand, particularly the capillaries located just under the surface of the skin. In doing so, it overrides the body's normal heat regulating process, which also makes use of dilation. What happens when the blood vessels expand is that a greater volume of blood is brought to the skin surface, where the heat of the blood is dissipated to the surrounding air. That's why you take on a flushed appearance when you drink. Since most of your heat-sensing nerves are also located in the skin surface, drinking makes you feel superficially warmer in both summer and winter. In winter, however, heat is carried away so rapidly that the body's metabolic reserves are quickly exhausted, possibly even resulting in frostbite or hypothermia. Hence the danger of freezing to death after a midwinter binge. So if you're drinking this summer, be sure there's some a/c nearby. And the next time you decide to get loaded at a winter Panthers game, for God's sake bundle up. *

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