Alcohol and cold and heat injury

There is the incorrect impression that alcohol has a warming effect on the body. This is partly due to the ‘flushing’, which causes increased blood flow to the skin and gives a false perception of body warmth, when actually there is increased heat loss. Alcohol increases the risk of inappropriate behaviour in adverse environments, including failure to take usual precautions to protect against cold or heat, and engaging in risk-taking behaviour. Alcohol increases blood flow to the skin, impairs body heat production and impairs shivering, all of which are undesirable in the face of cold injury and may result in lowered body temperature. Alcohol directly impairs the body’s ability to regulate body temperature at both high and low temperatures, and should be avoided in situations of heat and cold stress.