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First Aid


Prolonged exposure to cold weather and water can be life-threatening. Learn the steps to take to treat hypothermia.


Hypothermia is a medical emergency. It occurs when a person's body loses heat faster than the metabolism can generate it.

Normal body temperature is 37˚ C. If it falls to or below 35˚ C, the patient is hypothermic.

Hypothermia’s primary cause is prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, especially where water is a compounding factor. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body's stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature and, potentially, death.

Symptoms include:

  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Drowsiness or deficient energy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness

The treatment for a person with hypothermia is an urgent requirement. A few guidelines are as follows:

  • Immediately move the patient out of the area of exposure and into a warm, sheltered location.
  • Remove wet clothes and immediately wrap the patient in warm clothing, blankets and items that help protect from the wind. Many First-Aid kits contain a shiny foil-like space blanket.
  • If available, consider the controlled use of heat pads and, if safe, electric blankets.
  • Skin‐to‐skin contact with another person is an excellent method of increasing body temperature in a hypothermic patient.
  • Warm (not hot) liquids are helpful but do not offer alcohol - it can rapidly worsen the patient's condition.
  • Seek professional emergency medical assistance as soon as possible after the patient is removed from the exposure situation and can effectively begin warming.

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