Thursday, March 13, 2014

Alcohol and Cold Weather: Safety First, by Danielle Cook

Combining drinking alcohol with cold weather can have serious consequences, sometimes fatal. Several important tips help avoid danger in chilly conditions.

The best idea for people wishing to drink alcohol in cold weather is to stay indoors at all times. Drinking too much can lead to poor decision-making, such as spending too much time outside. Staying in groups can help reduce the risk that someone will end up on their own in frigid temperatures.

“Whatever decisions you choose to make regarding alcohol, please make sure that you and your friends are dressed appropriately for the weather,” urges Katie Helbing, a senior and Residence Assistant at UW-La Crosse.

Layering clothing is critical for people in pubs or bars and have to walk outside to get there. Bundle up in long sleeves and consider wearing long underwear under pants for extra warmth. Coats, hats, mittens/gloves, and scarves should be worn at all times on cold winter nights to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.

Drunk people often believe they are warmer than usual, due to blood vessels near the skin dilating. This can lead to a false sense of security about going outside during cold temperatures, but people drinking lose heat much quicker in cold weather, since the blood is closer to the skin.

Taking care to avoid slips and falls on ice or snow is also important to one’s safety. Drinking impairs movement and judgment significantly, so maintaining balance is often more difficult in these conditions.

Last winter, UW-La Crosse student Neala Frye died from hypothermia after leaving a bar by herself. The death was ruled accidental.