Fact check: Will drinking ice cold water in summer lead to stroke?

Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is reduced or blocked completely. Photo: Manorama

Social media often gets bombarded with hundreds of ‘viral’ messages advising you about the precautions that need to be taken to stay healthy during summer. People have been claiming on social media that drinking cold water during the heatwave would make the blood vessels shrink and may even lead to stroke. However, we did an investigation to check whether these claims were true.

This is what the viral post read: “Beware! Get ready for the next heatwave that will go up to 40 – 50 degrees Celsius. Make sure to drink water that is at room temperature to stay healthy. Avoid drinking ice-cold water as it may burst the small blood vessels in our body. Doctors advise against drinking ice-cold water when the temperature rises to 40 degrees. A person who enters the house from outside on a really hot day would naturally be thirsty. He would be sweating profusely and may wish to drink some cold water to cool down his body. However, if he washes his hands, legs and face in cold water, then he is likely to collapse. When the temperature outside is 38 degrees Celsius, do not drink ice-cold water; instead, always drink lukewarm water.

Do not wash your body immediately after sun exposure. Always wait for at least half an hour before taking a shower. Some people have experienced health problems like stroke or facial paralysis when they take a shower immediately after sun exposure. In the summer months, even if you are exhausted, avoid drinking ice-cold water as it may lead to the shrinking of blood vessels and stroke. Please share this message as much as possible.”

When does a stroke occur?
We used a keyword search method to investigate more about this post. We found that similar posts which ‘advise’ against drinking cold water during summer as it may lead to heart attacks had been viral in the previous years.

Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is reduced or blocked completely. It prevents the tissues from getting oxygen and other nutrients. There are two types of strokes – ischemic and haemorrhagic. High blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol levels and diabetes are some of the reasons for stroke.

Better to rest, but...
We contacted Dr Athura Das, an emergency medicine expert at Holy Cross Specialty Hospital in Kottiyam to learn more about stroke and its causes. He clarified that drinking ice-cold water immediately after sun exposure wouldn’t cause heart attacks or strokes. The body has a natural ability to adjust to different weather conditions and temperatures. However, it is better to rest a bit before drinking any kind of liquid including ice-cold water. When you drink cold water in a hot climate, the blood vessels in the stomach may shrink immediately. It may cause stomach pain or headaches. But, it is not related to stroke.

It is important to keep your body hydrated during hot climates to prevent dehydration and exhaustion. Taking breaks or seeking shades would keep your body relaxed. Make sure to seek medical attention in case of nausea, vomiting, disorientation or increased heartbeats. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines regarding the necessity of drinking water to prevent the ill effects of heat waves.

You should drink up to eight glasses of water daily for regular weight loss. Photo: Shutterstock/Prostock-studio

The post that has been doing the rounds on social media is wrong and misleading. There is no conclusive scientific evidence to prove that drinking ice-cold water immediately after sun exposure may lead to stroke. 

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