Alcohol, Caffeine & Hypothermia

Alcohol, Caffeine & Hypothermia

Hypothermia and alcohol do not mix, but do you know why?

Alcohol, Caffeine & Hypothermia 

Alcohol, Caffeine and Hypothermia

You may have heard that giving alcohol to someone with symptoms of hypothermia is unwise, but do you know why? 


When the body starts to regain temperature under normal circumstances, i.e. the environment becomes warmer; it turns on the taps to limbs, skin and other places it’s previously shut down, and lets warm blood flow once more.  This process is another of the body’s tricks, which is called vasodilatation.  We all know the feeling of warmth given when a nip of whiskey is taken from a hipflask; it makes us feel warm inside for a short time.  Alcohol tricks the body into thinking that it’s becoming warm again, and the body starts to turn on the taps to the limbs and skin, which takes that warm blood away from the core organs.  In return, the limbs will send back cold blood, which have a potentially fatal cooling effect on the body’s organs, which could lead to organ failure and death. 



Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it increases urination, which can lead to dehydration. If there is a flask of hot coffee available, it would be better for the casualty to have the benefit of the hot liquid than nothing. If there's a choice of hot liquids, one of which does not contain caffeine, select that one in preference to the caffeinated one.