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Health Official Warns – Alcohol Will Not Keep You Warm at Football Game [AUDIO]

photo courtesy of Lynda Gedden/flickr

The University of Montana Grizzlies will play the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on Saturday, December 7 on what forecasters say will be a bitterly cold day, with highs in the single digits and a possible below zero wind chill factor.

Health officials are warning those who plan to attend the game that consuming alcohol will not protect against the cold, but will only make the weather more potentially dangerous.

Health Officer with the Missoula City-County Health Department Ellen Leahy said on Thursday, December 5, that alcohol not only numbs the senses, but can exacerbate the effects of cold weather on the human body.

“Alcohol can help you not notice the cold so much, but that’s only one of the problems,” Leahy said. ” Alcohol actually can dilate the blood vessels, and can put some of that needed core heat out in other parts of the body where it’s not as needed. So, the idea that alcohol will help keep you warm is a myth.”

Leahy also addressed the danger of hypothermia, that is possible with continued exposure to extreme cold.

“You can be heading into hypothermia when you really start shivering, and that’s when you need to take action to add heat. It’s not enough to just insulate, you have to add heat,” Leahy said. “By the time you stop shivering, you can actually be in hypothermia, meaning your body has lost the ability to keep itself warm. In hypothermia, all your body systems slow down to the point of drowsiness and confusion, and many times if you’re out in the wild, you might want to just lay down and go to sleep. You just won’t realize that you’ve lost the ability to make sound judgments. Hopefully, that won’t happen in a crowded stadium.”

Leahy also said the exposure of bare flesh to extreme cold for three hours could also lead to frostbite.

“I think that frostbite is more of what we need to guard against at the football game,” Leahy said. “Frostbite, particularly can be dangerous for children because they won’t know what’s going on with the pain they might feel on feet and fingers. The pain is pretty short-lived, then it turns to numbness.With frostbite, the tissue actually freezes, which may causes permanent damage.”

Leahy reemphasized the fact that alcohol will not help you keep warm at the game.

Health Officer with the Missoula City County Health Department Ellen Leahy

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