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Why is weather dept asking people in north India not to drink alcohol during the cold wave?

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

Why is weather dept asking people in north India not to drink alcohol during the cold wave?


Context:

To avoid an adverse reaction to the cold wave, the IMD shared a list of recommendations, one of which was avoiding alcohol.

Background:

According to the IMD, severe cold wave conditions are likely in parts of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan from December 29 onwards. Maximum temperature is also forecast to fall by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius after December 28.

Why is alcohol bad in cold weather?

Alcohol can decrease the core temperature of the body and increase the risk of hypothermia during cold exposure. A retrospective study in 2004 showed that alcohol consumption is associated with 68 per cent of accidental hypothermia cases.

 How it works?

  1. Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means that it causes blood vessels to relax and dilate or open.
  2. So after consuming alcohol, the volume of blood brought to the skin’s surface increases, making you feel warmer as a result.
  3. This is also what causes an intoxicated person to look flushed.
  4. As the body begins to believe that it is warm, you also start to sweat — a reaction that automatically reduces overall body temperature.
  5. Drinking copious amounts of alcohol may affect your bodies ability to detect the cold properly, which is in place to protect you from frostbite and hypothermia.

However, experts say drinking moderately in temperate environments does not significantly affect the core temperature of the body.

What is hypothermia?

  • Hypothermia is a severe medical condition where the body loses heat before it can generate it, resulting in a dangerously low body temperature.
  • While normal body temperature lies at around 37 degrees Celsius, the body temperature of a person suffering from hypothermia drops to below 35 degrees Celsius.
  • Common signs include shivering, slow rate of breathing, slurred speech, cold skin and fatigue.

Alcohol also has psychological and behavioural effects, which can impact a person’s ability to correctly perceive how cold it is.

What is a coldwave?

  • A cold wave occurs when the minimum temperature dips to 10 degrees Celsius or less and the departure from normal temperature is 4.5 degrees Celsius or lower.
  • In severe cold wave conditions, departure from normal temperature is 6.5 degrees or lower.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is a cold wave?
  2. Severe cold waves.
  3. Classifications.
  4. About IMD.
  5. What is a Vasodilator?
  6. What is hypothermia?

Mains Link:

discuss why is weather dept asking people in north India not to drink alcohol during the cold wave?

Sources: the Hindu.