It seems to be a universally accepted truth among novelists that it is the Done Thing for rescuers to pour alcohol (usually brandy or whiskey) into rescuees who are lost-and-injured and/or lost-and-cold. It seems to be a literary given that alcohol is the correct and proper treatment for shock, injury, exposure, or hypothermia.
It’s not true.
And reading about it in novel after novel drives me slightly crazy.
In both the driver education class and the hunter education class I took as a teenager, it was distinctly and strongly hammered into us that dosing people who are injured, cold, or suffering from exposure with alcohol is a Very Bad Thing to do.
Alcohol has a deceptive effect on people’s bodies, in that it makes them feel warmer on the surface of their skin, while actually causing their core temperatures to drop, making them more—not less—cold and susceptible to hypothermia.
Here are some links to articles that further bust this literary myth: Dosing people who are injured, cold, or suffering from exposure with brandy or whiskey is not helpful. Novelists, take note!
“Alcohol Does Not Prevent Hypothermia, It Actually Makes It More Likely”
“Does Drinking Alcohol Really Keep You Warm When It’s Cold Out?”
“Drinking Alcohol Will Warm You Up: Myth or Fact?”