4 Warning Symptoms Of Hypothermia And First Aid For This Condition

Date December 7, 2017

Extreme weather can wreak havoc on your health. Humans can't handle very high and very low temperatures and have to seek shelter indoors, where the temperature can be controlled. Being outside in the heat for a long time can lead to heatstroke, and spending long time in cold temperatures can result in frostbite and hypothermia.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a condition that makes your body temperature fall dangerously low.

Normal human body temperature is around 98.6 °F. Body temperature lower than 95 °F is considered hypothermic. If it falls below 89.6 °F, it can be fatal.

It’s essential to know what to do and what not to do if someone has hypothermia. You should also know about precautionary measures to help you avoid the condition.

What are the symptoms of hypothermia?

According to Mayo Clinic, one of the first symptoms of hypothermia is shivering - this is how your body tries to get warm. Other symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • cold and pale skin;
  • slurred speech;
  • problems with coordination;
  • drowsiness and confusion.

People with a more severe hypothermia usually develop the following symptoms:

  • shallow and slow breathing;
  • weak pulse;
  • dilated pupils;
  • loss of consciousness.

If someone has severe hypothermia, you should call an ambulance right away.

Who is at a higher risk of hypothermia?

Certain groups of people are more susceptible to hypothermia. They include:

  • young children, because they lose heat faster than adults;
  • older people who are less active and have a poor nutrition;
  • people who are experiencing extreme tiredness;
  • people who abuse alcohol and drugs;
  • people who don't have a home;
  • people with certain medical conditions, including diabetes, hypothyroidism, stroke, severe arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord trauma.

How to prevent hypothermia?

The following steps can help you prevent hypothermia:

  • check the weather forecast;
  • dress appropriately for the weather – if it’s very cold outside, cover as much of your body as you can;
  • dress your child in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same weather;
  • spend less time outdoors in the cold if possible;
  • have warm-up breaks regularly if you’re working outside;
  • take a non-alcoholic warm drink with you before going outside when it's cold;
  • make sure your home is prepared for weather emergencies;
  • if you’re traveling by car, take emergency supplies that you may need in case you get stranded.

How to help someone with hypothermia?

If you suspect someone has hypothermia, do the following:

    • move the person to a warm place;
    • if the person's clothes are wet, disrobe him or her;
    • warm the person’s head, neck, chest, and groin first using a regular blanket, an electric blanket (the best option), wrapped hot water bottles, or simply by cuddling him or her if nothing else is available;
    • give the person a warm, non-alcoholic drink if he or she is able to swallow ;
    • if the person is unconscious (he or she may even appear dead), perform CPR (if you know how to do it right) until help arrives.

What you shouldn’t do to someone with hypothermia

According to the United Kingdom’s NHS, you should avoid the following:

  • putting the person with hypothermia into a hot bath;
  • massaging the person’s arms and legs;
  • using heating lamps;
  • giving hypothermia victims alcohol.

Such actions may lead to a cardiac arrest.

Humans weren’t designed to endure extremely cold weather. It means we have to take proper measures to protect ourselves from weather extremes in order to survive and stay healthy.

Source: Mayo Clinic, CDC, NHS UK, HealthDirect

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This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.