Will drinking alcohol help you feel warmer?

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Viewer Special."
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: Since at least the 18th century, St. Bernard dogs with barrels of brandy famously attached to their collars have been warming snow-stranded travelers in the Alps. But does alcohol really raise your body temperature? The MythBusters got out their snifters to get to the bottom of this myth.

Turns out, just one alcoholic drink could make you feel warmer, but it actually lowers your core body temperature.

How does alcohol employ this rule of opposites? Alcohol may make your skin feel warm, but this apparent heat wave is deceptive. A nip or two actually causes your blood vessels to dilate, moving warm blood closer to the surface of your skin, making you feel warmer temporarily. At the same time, however, those same veins pumping blood closer to the skin's surface cause you to lose core body heat - the heat you need to survive, especially if you're stuck in a snowdrift . This effect could lead to fatal hypothermia.

So a snifter of brandy may make you feel hot, but you certainly won't be that way for long.

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