Recently I traveled to a cold place and after I drank alcohol there I could feel that this consumption of alcohol kept me warm.

While feeling of coldness differs from person to person, I ask:
Is it advisable to consume alcohol to a person if he/she is feeling too cold?

I've read it's bad (Mentalfloss.com):

Alcohol is a vasodilator. It causes your blood vessels to dilate, particularly the capillaries just under the surface of your skin. When you have a drink, the volume of blood brought to the skin’s surface increases, making you feel warm. (That dilation is why slightly or exceedingly intoxicated people look flushed.) This overrides one of your body’s defenses against cold temperatures: Constricting your blood vessels, thereby minimizing blood flow to your skin in order to keep your core body temperature up.

Someone enjoying a drink in the cold may feel warmer from the extra blood warming his skin, but that blood will rapidly cool thanks to the chill in the air.

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  • Online blog says alcohol does not do any good. Its a just a feeling . I will close this.mentalfloss.com/article/32256/… – Arun Killu Feb 26 at 8:45
  • As you have found a good answer, instead of deleting or closing your question, maybe you could turn your findings into an answer? You are free to provide an answer to your own questions. – Chris Rogers Feb 26 at 11:36
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    @ChrisRogers, this is a very common question, also these kind of answers (as quoted) are very common, but the OP is not sure if the information provided is reliable enough. I think a decent answer would need to go a bit deeper than that. – Jan Feb 26 at 12:34
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    Well, not really, I mean this is not relevant here. One interesting question is if alcohol can prevent hypothermia or frostbite at least in short-term, like within 1 hour; also the environmental temperature is really important here. Alcohol can certainly keep you warm, but it's a big difference how this work at plus or minus 10 degrees C. – Jan Feb 26 at 14:31
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    I see your point on the reliability of the linked quote @Jan - good point – Chris Rogers Feb 26 at 15:11

In summary, alcohol can make you feel warmer because it increases the blood flow in the skin, but it does not likely increase your body temperature; it can even decrease it.

1) A 1994 review article Alcohol ingestion and temperature regulation during cold exposure concludes that in cold environment alcohol lowers core body temperature.

Alcohol can impair central thermoregulation (like barbiturates - Brain Research Bulletin, 1981). In the studies, in cold environments (for example, 15 °C or lower), alcohol lowered core body temperature and in hot environments (36 °C) it increased it.

Alcohol also widens the blood vessels in the skin and thus increases the blood flow through the skin, which stimulates heat loss.

Alcohol may also cause hypoglycemia (especially in combination with exercise or fasting), which results in a decrease of both metabolic heat production and shivering.

In some studies, even relatively large amounts of alcohol, like 0.86 g/kg = 60 g/70 kg or ~600 mL of wine, did not result in a drop of core body temperature. Only in one study and only in few participants, alcohol insignificantly reduced the cooling rate after immersion in cold water (7.5 °C).

2) In this small trial in 9 men: The effect of alcohol consumption on the circadian control of human core body temperature is time dependent (American Journal of Physiology, 2001), they have observed that alcohol consumed at regular intervals for 24 hours (256 g alcohol in total, which corresponds to 822 ml of 80 proof vodka!), slightly decreased the body temperature during the day and slightly increased it at night:

We found the standard hypothermic effect of alcohol in the early hours of the trial, during the daytime, but our principal result is that alcohol consumption induced a very significant hyperthermic effect (+0.36°C) during the night...

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  • in short that warmth is of no use :) use a good blanket instead – Arun Killu Feb 28 at 8:59

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