Alcohol poses serious risk when temperatures are bitterly cold

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Water St. in downtown Milwaukee will be a hub of entertainment when the parties get underway on New Year's Eve. But if you're one of the many people expected to hit the bars and clubs to celebrate, there are some safety steps you need to take.

First and foremost, don't drink and drive. But additionally, you need to be very aware of how bitterly cold it is outside.

"Though we typically think  of alcohol as warming us up, it really does not do that. It gives us a sensation of heat, but what really is happening is the blood vessels in your skin are dilating and that actually lets off heat though it does give you a sensation of heat while that's happening," said Dr. Ian Powell of Rogers Memorial Hospital.

That means you might feel warm, but your body's actually at risk of serious injury if you're out in the winter elements for too long and not dressed properly.

"Certainly it could start to develop a skin tissue injury fairly quickly especially if skin is in direct contact with a cold surface with the snow or ice. Within minutes certainly people are going to start developing hypothermia. Within 15 minutes to 30 minutes, death could be fairly rapid too. Certainly within hours, if someone does pass out or is left in the snow or the cold," said Dr. Powell.

To make sure that doesn't happen to you, make sure you bundle up for this kind of cold, be responsible about how much you drink and how quickly it goes down, and look out for your friends.