Whenever an individual is exposed to wind with high humidity or chill factor, and to extremely cool places and environment for a prolonged period of time, the body’s thermoregulation may fail to keep the temperature within the normal range. In the process, more heat is being lost than what the body can generate – a condition known as hypothermia or a body temperature that is lower than 35C (95F). Inadequate or wet clothing, taking a dip into cold water, or even not wearing head covers during cold weather can increase the likelihood of developing hypothermia.
What are the signs and symptoms of hypothermia?
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia usually develop gradually, and because they often experience gradual loss of mental coordination and awareness, they are mostly unaware of the need for medical emergency.
- Slow, abnormal breathing
- Pale, cold skin
- Gradual loss of mental coordination and awareness
- Apathy, fatigue or lethargy
- Short-term memory loss or confusion
- Shivering accompanied by slurred speech
- Cold skin
- Lowered body temperature
Who are most at risk of hypothermia?
Babies, children, people who are thin and older adults are the population most at risk for hypothermia, especially during cold, rainy, or winter seasons. Other predisposing factors for hypothermia include cardiovascular diseases, hypothyroidism and malnutrition.
What to do to a person suffering from hypothermia?
As an important first aid management, it is always necessary to check the airway, breathing and circulation of the patient. Always see to it that the victim has airway and is breathing.
Move the victim to a safer location or indoors, especially when he/she is outside exposed to cold weather; a warm and dry place is very important.
Call the emergency hotline and check the patient’s symptoms – slurred speech, confusion, shivering extremities – if they are getting worse.
If the victim is wet, dry him/her and replace clothing with dry. However, if the victim is dry, leave the clothing on and wrap him/her with thick, warm blankets.
If the patient is conscious, allow him/her to take small sips of warm, non-alcoholic drinks. Never apply direct heat to the victim as it may cause scalding or burning.
If you are going to apply warm compress, start from the center of the body (preferable the chest, neck, head and groin areas). This helps prevent the cold blood from going back to the heart, which could result to sudden drop in body temperature.
As providers of first aid, it is necessary to know how to check an individual for signs and symptoms of hypothermia, as well as to render emergency care when necessary. Check out our site for more information about First Aid Courses.
Related Video On Hypothermia:
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“How To Recognize and Treat Hypothermia.” About.com. Retrieved online on June 19, 2014 from http://firstaid.about.com/od/heatcoldexposur1/ht/06_hypothermia.htm
“Hypothermia Treatment.” WebMD. Retrieved online on June 19, 2014 from http://www.webmd.com/first-aid/hypothermia-treatment