Alcohol has cooling effect on the body, contrary to popular belief

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - New Year's Eve is one of the busiest days of the year for emergency rooms across the country.

Many people are drinking to ring in the new year, but some people are fooled into thinking alcohol warms up their bodies, when it actually has the reverse effect.

University Hospitals' Doctor Justin Yax said alcohol fools the brain.

"It gives that sensation because what it does is it dilates your blood vessels. The problem with that is, when you get out into the cold that increases blood to, let's say, your extremities, so what that does is increase heat loss," he said.

After sipping a few drinks, your body might not realize it's losing heat, which makes it easier to get hypothermia and frostbite.

"Frostbite is very interesting because you can actually get crystals forming in the fluid inside the cells and that can cause permanent damage, if not reversed quickly," Yax said.

Early stages of frostbite include:

  • Pale yellow or white skin
  • Skin that itches, stings or burns

Intermediate stages of frostbite include:

  • Hardening of the skin
  • Skin that looks shiny or waxy
  • Blisters that form when the skin thaws

Advanced stages of frostbite are the most dangerous. They include:

  • Skin that becomes very hard
  • Skin that is cold to the touch
  • Dark skin that turns blue or black

"The symptoms you experience are generally numbness, kind of a waxy, whitish sensation in your usually your digits, the tips of your fingers, the tips of your toes, your nose, your ears, and so when you can't feel these body parts, that's when it's incredibly important to get back inside so you can actually get rewarmed," Yax said.

Since alcohol impairs judgment, doctors recommend people dress warmly. In the winter, wear boots, a hat and gloves when you go outside.

If you start feeling frostbite symptoms that won't go away, go to the emergency room to get checked out.

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