Hidden dangers of cold weather and alcohol - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Hidden dangers of cold weather and alcohol

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MADISON (WKOW) --- Dangerously cold temperatures will make this new years eve a frigid one.

Whatever your plans are for New Year's Eve better make sure you're bundled up. Paul Ripp, Division Chief with the Madison Fire Department, says the risk of hypothermia is a real possibility.

And if you've had a few drinks, don't be fooled thinking it's warmer outside than it really is. Alcohol widens blood vessels under the skin, so they fill with warm blood.

“It is a dilator and the circulation will increase. And that's why you feel warmer,” Ripp said.

However, in the cold, that can lead to hypothermia, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Ripp said the false sense of warmth can be misleading.

“The warmth they feel is not an indication of what their body temperature actually is.”

He also said alcohol can impair a person's ability to recognize symptoms of hypothermia.

“In particular mild hypothermia, you start to shiver and so forth. And you would normally put on more clothes to try to stay warmer, your body's ability to detect those symptoms starts to drop. In fact, in some severe cases in extreme conditions and advance hypothermia, people have actually been known to start to take their clothes off,” Ripp said.

If you're walking home on new year's eve and you start feeling a little confused and you stop shivering, get to a warm place as quickly as possible.

“And certainly if you have more clothing, it would be to put it on if you're not already wearing,” Ripp said.

Other symptoms of hypothermia include exhaustion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.

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