Let’s stay safe in this frigid winter weather. Watch our Medical Minute to find out how to know the symptoms of hypothermia and steps to take to treat it if you or a loved one has hypothermia.
What is hypothermia?
When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. In time, the cold will use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia. Hypothermia, simplified, is a dangerously low body temperature. Extremely low body temperature can have a negative effect in the brain function. For example, the victim may become unable to think clearly or move well. This is one of the most dangerous attributes of hypothermia, because it is possible that the affected person may not be able to comprehend what is happening, and wont be able to get help.
Hypothermia most commonly occurs at extremely cold temperatures, but it can develop even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.
Who is at risk of getting hypothermia?
Victims of hypothermia are often (1) elderly people with inadequate food, clothing, or heating; (2) babies sleeping in cold bedrooms; (3) people who remain outdoors for long periods—the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.; and (4) people who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs.
Know the Symptoms of hypothermia:
• shivering, exhaustion
• confusion, fumbling hands
• memory loss, slurred speech
• bright red, cold skin
• very low energy
What to do if you think you or a loved one might have hypothermia:
If you notice any of the above signs, of hypothermia, take the person’s temperature. The situation could be an emergency and if so requires medical attention if the persons temperature is under 95°.
If medical care is not available, take the following precautionary steps:
• Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
• Remove any wet clothing from the victim
• Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
• Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
• After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
• Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
It is common for a person with hypothermia to be unconscious, and even have almost no pulse or breath. In this case, handle the victim gently, and get emergency assistance immediately. CPR should be provided if possible. CPR should continue while the victim is being warmed, until the victim responds or medical aid becomes available. In some cases, hypothermia victims who appear to be dead can be successfully resuscitated.