Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when body heat is lost faster than it is being produced, and the body temperature then drops below 95oF (35OC). Hypothermia is mostly caused by exposure to cold weather or being immersed in cold water. Although it normally occurs outdoors, hypothermia can also be indoors, and caused by continuous exposure to indoor temperatures lower than 50oF (10oC).
Hypothermia begins with light symptoms. However, when not treated, it can progress and become potentially life-threatening.
The symptoms and signs usually develop slowly. Shivering (although it may stop as your body temperature drops), a cold body, and having the urge to urinate are signs of mild hypothermia. In infants, the symptoms of mild hypothermia include bright red skin, lethargy, and cold.
Mumbling or slurred speech, slow and shallow breathing, weak pulse, clumsiness, memory loss or confusion, drowsiness, cold but not shivering, vision loss, being irrational are all symptoms of someone having severe hypothermia.
Someone already in the late stages of severe hypothermia might lose consciousness and have stiff muscles. They might also go into a coma or even experience cardiac arrest. It should be assumed that anyone that has just been pulled out of cold water has hypothermia.
Since hypothermia normally happens to those exposed to extreme levels of cold, those who take part in cold weather activities or those who travel to cold climate regions or even live there bear a risk of hypothermia. Infants are also most probable to become hypothermic, especially if they sleep in a cold bedroom. In addition, those who are ill, have poor circulation, and the elderly have a higher risk of suffering from hypothermia. Also, there are some medications and diseases, consumption of alcohol and smoking, and increases the chance of becoming hypothermic.
First aid for hypothermia
Check the airway, circulation, and breathing of the patient.
Then move the person away from the cold gently. If you can’t go indoors, shield the person from the wind especially, around the head and neck area. Also, insulate the person from the cold ground.
Then remove any wet or constricting clothing gently and replace them with warm, dry, loose coats or blankets.
Attempt any of the combinations below to rewarm the person. Choose the method based on what you have available.
Completely cover the person with a space blanket or foil. You can also use your body heat to rewarm them.
Use warm compresses on the centre of the person’s body: the neck, chest, and groin.
Give the person warm, sweet fluids. The fluid should be nonalcoholic because alcohol interferes with the circulation of the blood and it hinders the process of rewarming.
If the person shows no signs of life such as movement, coughing, or breathing, you can begin CPR.
If someone has hypothermia and frostbite, immediately contact emergency medical services and then administer the first aid for hypothermia stated above. Follow up by giving first aid for frostbite also.
Do not warm the arms and legs as massaging or heating the limbs can stress the lung and heart.
Do not rewarm the hypothermia patient too quickly with the likes of a hot bath or heating lamp.
Since a hypothermic condition could become life-threatening if not treated, knowing how to give first aid to someone with this condition could make all the difference.