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Does drinking an alcoholic beverage make you warmer? That's the question Yael and Don discuss on this Moment of Science. Yael: Hey Don, what're you reading?

Don: A travel brochure. Listen to this. "When the weather turns cold, some people dream about Caribbean vacations, but others look forward to cold-weather sports: ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing." I like ice fishing...nice day...sitting on the ice...little flask of brandy to warm up with.

Y: Don't say that, Don! Drinking does not make winter sports better. If anything, it makes them more dangerous.

D: Well, sure, too much alcohol can lead to trouble--poor judgment, reckless driving, getting lost on the trail, that sort of thing--but what's the harm in a few nips of whisky by the side of the fishing hole? Warms you up.

Y: No, it doesn't. Alcohol may give you the feeling that you're getting warmer, but that's just an illusion: really, alcohol makes you more susceptible to the cold.

D: What? I don't believe it.

Y: In cold weather, the body reacts by routing blood away from the skin toward the internal organs. This prevents loss of heat through the skin and maintains the core temperature. But, alcohol reverses this effect by making you flush red. This flush makes you feel warm for a few minutes, but you are really losing heat through the skin to the cold air. You could lose enough heat to begin hypothermia and not even realize it, because as your skin feels warmer, the core body temperature is becoming colder and colder.

D: Guess I'd better stick to hot chocolate, eh?

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