How to recognize and deal with hypothermia

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Hypothermia typically involves mild chills as well as shivering, but can also lead to coma or death in severe cases. This condition is characterized by a core body temperature lower than 95 F. The condition is likely to occur if you are exposed to cold temperatures for an extended period especially during the cold season.

Prolonged exposure to cold can lead to hypothermia.

Signs and symptoms of hypothermia

• Shivering
• Confusion
• Exhaustion
• Speech that is slurred
• Fatigue
• Loss of memory
• Loss of motor control

It is a known fact that exposure to cold tends to vary in which some cases are worse. Individuals who are wet tend to lose body heat at a faster rate than those who are dry. Even windy conditions can make an individual lose heat quickly.

First aid measures when dealing with hypothermia

When an individual is suffering from hypothermia, there are first aid measures that you can perform.

1. It is important to stay safe when helping out an individual suffering from hypothermia. In case the area is too cold to cause hypothermia to the individual, it can also cause hypothermia to a rescuer. Always observe the universal precautions and use the appropriate protective gear if available.
2. Check if the airway of the individual is clear and breathing. Take note that the condition of individuals suffering from hypothermia can worsen as they get warmer. Once the cold blood in the extremities flows back to the heart, the body temperature can drop. Make sure that you are prepared for the changes in the condition of the individual.
3. Transfer the individual to a warmer area.
4. Call for emergency assistance in case the individual develops signs of severe hypothermia such as slurred speech, confusion, loss of motor control and coma.
5. Wet clothing should be removed.
6. Cover the individual with blankets especially warming blankets.
7. If chemical heat packs are available, they should be applied on the neck, groin and armpits of the individual.
8. Individuals who can follow instructions and can sit upright can be given warm beverages.

Important considerations when treating hypothermia

Always bear in mind that once hypothermia progresses, the shivering stops so that the body can conserve energy. An individual suffering from hypothermia that has stopped shivering might be getting worse.

Individuals who are unconscious usually have other medical problems. Do not forget that prolonged exposure to cold can lead to frostbite.

Even though alcohol is believed to warm the body, it only flushes the skin with warm blood. Once the blood is at the surface of the skin, it is quickly cooled. Alcohol basically speeds up hypothermia as well as causing dehydration.

Once individuals who suffered from severe hypothermia recover, cold blood from the extremities is pulled to the body core. Understandably, this results to a drop in the core body temperature which makes the hypothermia worse. It is important to observe the individual carefully since he/she can suffer from abrupt cardiac arrest that requires CPR.

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