Health risks abound with winter chill in air
State News staffers show you how to bundle up in the cold weather.
The warm feeling students get from sipping a cold beer actually could kill them, experts say.
According to health experts, students shouldn’t be fooled by the warmth they might feel while drinking alcohol — commonly referred to as a beer jacket or blanket. In reality, the body is getting colder, faster.
“The danger is that you won’t realize (how cold you are,) and you’ll stay outside longer and put yourself at risk of severe-cold injury,” said Timothy Hodge, doctor of osteopathic medicine and director of emergency services at Sparrow Hospital.
Risks include frostbite, hypothermia or frostnip.
Hodge said the danger lies in both impaired judgment and the physical reaction to alcohol. Although blood vessels typically constrict in the cold, alcohol keeps them dilated and lowers body temperature.
Alcohol also stops the body from shivering, a natural warming mechanism.
After a few beers, wearing a skirt without a jacket when it’s snowing might not seem like such a bad idea, Hodge said.
If someone is drunk enough to lose consciousness outside it could lead to hypothermia and death, even in slightly warmer weather, Hodge said.
He said being drunk in cold weather also increases the chances of injuries, as a person might be less coordinated and more prone to slipping and falling on ice.
“The idea of a beer jacket — it’s an illusion,” MSU Coordinator of Health Education Dennis Martell said. “The only coat that is real is the one in your closet.”
Martell said it’s important to prioritize warmth before appearance in the cold weather.
Construction management senior Billy Palazzolo could hardly disagree after an incident two years ago when he and his friends, including State News photographer Adam Toolin, potentially helped save the life of an intoxicated student on campus.
Palazzolo said he was walking home with friends in January 2010 when they spotted a college-age male stumbling in the wooded area behind McDonel Hall, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt.
Palazzolo said the man was shivering uncontrollably and couldn’t string sentences together.
After giving him clothing and warming the man up with blankets in his dorm room, the group called the police, who took the individual away.
Hodge said although he advocates not drinking or drinking in moderation, students who drink during cold weather should stay with friends, dress in layers and try to stay in warm places.