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.
- 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.