Winter Survival Myths

Not everything that we know about surviving in the cold is true. Here are my two favorite myths that you should probably know as well

Caffeine

Caffeine consumption, although it will keep you awake, will actually make you hypothermic more quickly. Because your core temperature is dropping (your heart is getting cold) and caffeine will speed up your heart rate. You will be pumping more cold blood through your extremities to get cold and then bring it back to the heart faster cooling your core at an exponential rate. It works like the way an elephant’s ears cool them down by passing blood through cooler, non-core extremities then pumping it back to the core. Except in this case you are trying to stay warm, not cool, so you really want to avoid this. Don’t drink caffeine!

Alcohol

We have all seen a picture of the St. Bernard with the flask of brandy tied around his neck as he searches for survivors. Just to clear things up, this never really happened and is really just a fantasy brought to life in a painting made by a 17-year-old British kid that has grown into a damn cute thing to put around a giant dog’s neck.  The reason it is not real is two-fold and neither is good for how long your time here on this planet lasts.

First, alcohol will cause your blood vessels to expand which will allow the cold blood to move faster to the core much like caffeine’s effects. This does happen when you are doing jumping jacks to get your temperature up, but you are doing it while generating heat. This is happening without any heat being generated. The short of it is that you are now pumping more cold blood to the core which is bad news.

Secondly, the effects of alcohol inhibit the shivering response. This means that your natural warmth response which is to quiver to generate heat (shiver) is now muted and so your body won’t start that until much later than you need it. In short, by the time you start shivering it’s probably too late. Save the alcohol for the rescuers as thanks for saving your tail.

Stay smart. Stay warm. Reduce risk. Just be a good person. Those are the keys to living through winter weather.

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