Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a condition involving abnormally low body temperatures. The body works to keep its core temperature between 97.2° F (36.2° C) and 99.5° F (37.5° C). If the body temperature drops below this range, many problems begin to occur, due to a decrease in metabolism functions. If untreated, hypothermia can be deadly. Exercise naturally raises the body temperature. However, exercise uses more energy. When your stored energy is used up, you become more vulnerable to hypothermia.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms may last 3 to 12 hours.

  • Cold fingers and toes.

  • Shivering (may not be present in the elderly).

  • Initially a rapid heart rate, that eventually slows.

  • Initially rapid breathing, that eventually slows.

  • Need to urinate urgently.

  • Fatigue.

  • Poor coordination.

  • Confusion.

  • Shock.

  • Irregular heartbeat.

RISK INCREASES WITH:

  • Surrounding air temperatures below one's core temperature.

  • Small children and the elderly.

  • Drug use.

  • Too much alcohol use.

  • Inability to move around or remain alert.

  • Medicines such as tranquilizers, cardiovascular drugs, sedatives, and antidepressants.

PREVENTION

Severe hypothermia is life threatening. Take all possible precautions to avoid hypothermia.

  • Wear several layers of warm, loose clothing.

  • Wear a hat that covers your ears.

  • Wear a protective waterproof and windproof outer garment, to stay as dry as possible.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol.

  • Know the symptoms and treatment for hypothermia.

  • Pack sheets of plastic and aluminum, that help retain heat (space blankets) and high energy food, in case of an emergency.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Use common sense. Recognize and avoid high risk situations.

TREATMENT

Seek emergency medical help. Call your local medical emergency services (911 in the U.S.). Then, do the following while waiting for medical help:

  • If the person is not breathing, start rescue breathing (artificial respiration).

  • If the person's heart is not beating, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

  • Take off cold, wet clothing.

  • Wrap the person in warm blankets or other coverings.

  • If you must remain outdoors, cover the person's head and keep him or her from direct contact with the cold ground.

  • Move the person carefully to a warm place, and begin re-warming.

  • Re-warming must be done slowly to prevent a rush of blood to the surface of the body and away from vital organs that need blood. If re-warming cannot be done by a trained medical person, do the following:

  • Remove any damp clothes and dress the person in dry clothes, or cover the person lightly with blankets.

  • Give warm liquids to drink. (Do not give anything by mouth, if the person is confused.)

  • Allow the person to warm up gradually, in a warm room.

  • Give the person a warm (not hot) bath. Immerse the trunk only, leaving the limbs out of the bath.

WHAT NOT TO DO:

  • Do not give the person hot liquids to drink.

  • Do not force the person to eat or drink anything.

  • Do not give alcoholic beverages.

  • Do n ot try to warm cold skin by rubbing or massaging it.

  • D o n ot cover the person with heavy layers of blankets.

  • Do n ot allow the person to walk.

  • Do not use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets.