Avoid Alcohol – IMD’s Warning During Cold Wave: What’s the Reason?

But doesn’t alcohol make you feel warmer? Why has the IMD issued an ‘unusual’ advisory? Read on.

3 min read
IMD Cold Wave Warning: The IMD has issued a list of do’s and don’ts for people to protect themselves from biting cold. Image used for representation purposes.

The India Meteorological Department asked residents of some north Indian states, including Delhi, to avoid consuming alcohol, in view of the severe cold wave conditions that are expected to descend from Tuesday, 29 December.

In an impact-based advisory, issued earlier this week in December, the IMD has issued a list of do's and don'ts for people to protect themselves from the biting cold.

But doesn't alcohol make you feel warmer? Why has the IMD issued an 'unusual' advisory? Read on.


Which states are going to witness cold wave conditions?

Cold wave is likely to be witnessed in parts of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan from 29 December.

The maximum temperature in these parts is likely to fall between 3 to 5 degree Celsius.

What does the government advisory say about falling ill?

The IMD has said that the weather conditions are more likely to increase the risk of falling ill. The following symptoms/illnesses are possible, the IMD has said:

  • Flu
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Nosebleeds, due to long exposure to cold
  • Frostbite
  • Shivering, the first sign that body is losing heat

How does the IMD suggest we avoid adverse physical reactions?

One of the main recommendations is to avoid alcohol during cold wave.

"Don't drink alcohol. It reduces your body temperature," the advisory suggests.

The other suggestions are:

  • Limit time/activities outdoor
  • Moisturise skin with oil/cream
  • Eat vegetables and fruits rich in Vitamin C
  • Drink warm fluids

But wait, doesn’t alcohol actually make you feel warmer?

Studies over the years has shown that alcohol creates a "sensation" of warmth but actually decreases the core temperature of the body.

This is regardless of the temperature outside. Therefore, alcohol actually increases the risk of hypothermia, studies say.

A study jointly conducted by the Thermal Physiology and the Medicine Division, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, is often cited to back this, among many other studies.


What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is described as a “medical emergency,” where your body loses heat faster than it can produce it which causes a "dangerously low” body temperature, according to MayoClinic.

What happens to our body when alcohol is consumed?

Our body feels warm when blood flows away from the skin and into our organs – increasing our body temperature. However, alcohol is said to reverse this process by increases the flow of blood to the skin.

“Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it causes your blood vessels to expand or dilate which results in rapid heat loss from the surface of your skin. So after you drink it, there is an increase of blood brought up to the surface of your skin which makes you feel warm and look flushed,” FIT explained.

Then, why do you feel warm when you drink alcohol?

This is simply your body's response to the reduced body temperature.

Alcohol consumption is more risky because it means that you don’t know if you are cold – meaning your body cannot detect your environment and isn't able to protect you naturally from the cold and hypothermia.

Does this mean I should skip drinking altogether in winter?

No, not at all. This happens only when a person engages in heavy drinking. For moderate drinking, we may experience some symptoms like the warmth and flush, but our core temperature will not be significantly affected, FIT reported.


How to avoid falling ill amid cold wave and COVID-19 pandemic?

  • Practice proper hand hygiene for 20 seconds
  • Don’t forget to wash the back of your hand and under your fingernails
  • Practice physical distancing
  • Wear your mask every time you step out
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of minerals and vitamins, and lots of green, leafy vegetables
  • Try to have a healthy sleeping routine
  • And of course, restrict excess alcohol

(With inputs from FIT)

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