Predicting a severe cold wave in the national capital and several other parts of North India, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a rather unusual advisory. In an impact-based advisory, the IMD urged residents of India’s northernmost states to protect themselves from the biting cold by avoiding alcohol.
Many consider alcoholic drinks as a means to keep warm in the cold winter nights. But health experts have a different opinion. Alcohol only makes you feel warmer. But it actually reduces the body temperature and compromises the immunity if ventured out into the cold.
According to a study jointly conducted by the Thermal Physiology and the Medicine Division, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, alcohol can decrease the core temperature of the body and increase the risk of hypothermia during cold exposure.
Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means that it causes blood vessels to relax and dilate or open. So after consuming alcohol, the volume of blood brought to the skin’s surface increases, making you feel warmer as a result. This is also what causes an intoxicated person to look flushed.
As the body begins to believe that it is warm, you also start to sweat — a reaction that automatically reduces overall body temperature. Drinking copious amounts of alcohol may affect your bodies ability to detect the cold properly, which is in place to protect you from frostbite and hypothermia.
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C).
When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can't work normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death.
However, experts say drinking moderately in temperate environments does not significantly affect the core temperature of the body.
IMD said minimum temperatures would rise in the plains of north India — including in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and north Rajasthan — until Sunday, before falling by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius.
According to the IMD, cold northwesterly winds blowing from the western Himalayan region would lead to cold or severe cold wave conditions in parts of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh from Monday onwards.
The weather department also warned of frostbite, a condition where the skin turns pale, hard and numb and is eventually left with black blisters when exposed to extreme cold conditions. “Do not ignore shivering,” the notice read. “It is the first sign that the body is losing heat. Get indoors”.