Hypothermia can be recognized by the symptoms of: uncontrolled or violent shivering, slow or slurred speech, extreme fatigue, stumbling when attempting to walk, confusion, numbness in limbs, weakened pulse, and/or semi-conscious or unconscious reaction. When symptoms of hypothermia set in, it’s usually apparent that the person experiencing this condition is disoriented and unable to behave as usual. You will recognize a weaker pulse and chilled or very cool skin. Pay attention especially to any lack of consciousness that will require immediate medical help.
Hypothermia usually occurs when the body becomes wet, cold, or wind chilled. It can come about from soaked clothing, freezing outside temperatures, contact with cold metals, and high wind streams. Hypothermia can be more prominent in those who have poor circulation from cardiovascular diseases, those who consume alcohol, work or play outside in extremely cold conditions, are exhausted or fatigued, and those who are hungry or haven’t eaten in a long period of time. Being healthy and well fed is key to preventing hypothermia, especially when faced with extremely cold conditions outside.
- Hypothermia symptoms can be eased by bringing a person inside or away from the cold wind. If a person is wet, remove the soaked clothing and wrap a warm dry blanket around them, covering exposed skin. You can also put a person next to a warm (not hot) heater or near a fire (not too close, however). While it is important to get a person with hypothermia warm, you want to take care not to warm them too fast or you risk throwing them into shock. Slowly warm the person with hypothermia symptoms by gradually getting their body temperature up to normal again.
Hypothermia can also be relieved with warm (not hot) soups, warm (not hot) drinks, or your own body heat. Giving a person with hypothermia something warm will help them to gradually up their body temperature and get them back to feeling normal again. Chicken broth, chicken noodle soup, and/or tomato soups are a great way to make a person with hypothermia feel warm again. Also, your own body heat can generate slow warmth in a person with hypothermia. Try getting under the covers with a person who has hypothermia and holding them close to you. Giving off your body heat will help a person with hypothermia symptoms to warm up to normal body temperature again as a slower pace than heating them with any other heating tools (which can be too hot).
Hypothermia can be prevented by laying clothing before going outside or sitting in a home that is heated below 65.0 F. Protect your head, feet, and hands from the cold with a warm hat, waterproof boots, and waterproof gloves. Keeping your body dry, but cool will help to prevent hypothermia. If you find that you get too hot underneath all those layers of clothing, simply strip them off one by one until you find yourself at a good cool body temperature again. Just as being extremely cold can cause hypothermia, so too can being too hot. Also, since most of our body heat is lost through our heads, it is important to wear good headgear when out in extremely cold conditions. A good waterproof cotton or wool hat that covers your ears is best for preventing hypothermia.
Hypothermia can also be prevented by finding good shelter when outside in cold conditions. If you must work or play outside in the cold, be sure that you are close to a warm building or an area where you can get out from wind chills that could otherwise freeze you. Also, if you do become wet from outside activities such as sledding, skiing, or even working on a vehicle, be sure to change your clothes as soon as possible. Being outside in wet clothing can bring hypothermia on quickly, especially in cold winds. This is another reason why it’s important to layer clothing so that you can take off wet clothes and still be dry underneath.
Tips & Warnings:
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water or liquids (avoid soda, sugary beverages, and caffeine)…dehydration can bring on hypothermia pretty quickly and create fatigue faster than you realize.
- If a person is unconscious from hypothermia, seek medical help immediately…it’s usually means their body is in shock or much to cold for you to warm up safely.
- Never use hot water or hot heating devices to warm a person with hypothermia…you could send their body into shock and create a bigger health issue