Hypothermia is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition where the body loses more heat than it produces causing body temperature to drop below 35 degrees Celsius. The normal human body temperature is 37 degrees.
When your body temperature drops, the vital organs such as the heart, lungs, the nervous system, and other organs cannot work normally. If hypothermia is left untreated, it may cause organs to fail and eventually lead to death.
The most common cause of hypothermia is exposure to cold weather or being in cold water for too long.
The first symptom of hypothermia you would notice is shivering, as your body is producing friction to produce heat, this is the body’s attempt at trying to warm itself up.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia:
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty in breathing
- Weak pulse
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of consciousness
Someone suffering from hypothermia may not notice it as symptoms appear gradually. They may also lack self-awareness and may have problems deciding or may do risky behavior due to confusion.
To treat hypothermia, the only way is to reheat the body to gain normal body temperature. This can be done by staying close to a source of heat or heading indoors from the cold weather. Wearing appropriate clothing so that the cold will have trouble penetrating the clothing you wear. Stay dry as possible and don’t do any strenuous physical activity as the sweat can help in losing body temperature.
There are also several factors that may contribute to hypothermia, these include:
- Exhaustion, as your tolerance to cold temperatures, decreases due to fatigue.
- Age, as young children lose heat faster than adults while the elderly’s ability to regulate body temperature or sense cold diminishes over time.
- Alcohol and drug use.
- Certain medical conditions, such as poor nutrition, diabetes, etc.
- Medications, some can alter the effectivity or ability of the body to regulate temperature.
Hypothermia can also lead to complications, such as:
- Frostbite, as body tissues, can freeze from cold temperatures.
- Gangrene, as body tissues, can decay and die from the interruption of blood flow.
The details posted on this page on hypothermia is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how it is managed, enroll in a first aid course with one of our training providers.