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Hypothermia – Know the Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

hypothermiaEvery winter many people skiing, hiking or otherwise just outside longer than expected can easily get frostbite – that we all know.

Yet according to health experts, hypothermia is of even greater concern than frostbite. Not recognizing and taking proper steps for even the initial signs and symptoms of mild hypothermia can be deadly.

Here are the signs and symptoms of mild hypothermia, which occurs when a person’s internal temperature drops to 95 degrees:

  1. The victim feels cold, causing shivering to reach a maximum level.
  2. The victim maintains a normal level of consciousness, is alert, and has normal or only slightly impaired coordination.

Then, with a drop in internal temperature just two more degrees down to 93 degrees:

  1. The victim develops apathy, amnesia, slurred speech, and poor judgment.

As this point it is important to quickly provide the correct treatment:

  1. Get the victim into shelter and insulate him or her from the cold.
  2. Replace any wet clothing with dry, insulated garments.
  3. Give the victim warm food and lots of sugar containing fluids to drink. Elevating the core temperature of an average sized individual one degree requires consuming about 60 kilocalories worth of hot beverage. Because a quart of hot soup at 140 degrees provides about 30 kilocalories, a victim would have to consume two quarts to raise his temperature one degree. The sugar content of the fluid, however, will provide added fuel for the victim’s furnace so that he can generate his own internal heat.
  4. Heat  loss may be slowed by wrapping the victim in plastic bags or tarps as well as sleeping bags. Huddling together will reduce heat loss.
  5. Resist the urge to use hot water bottles or heat packs; they can turn off the shivering mechanism and, by themselves, add very little heat to the core. Instead, bring water to boil and have the victim inhale the steam, or build a fire.

Health officials estimate that 1,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. among people who become overexposed to cold air or water.  Knowing the signs, symptoms and effective treatment of hypothermia can help reduce this number considerably.

2 Responses to “Hypothermia – Know the Signs, Symptoms and Treatment”

  1. Jan Draaisma Says:

    Interesting blog. I have a few comments. Point 4 of the treatment you suggest to huddle together. Recently i took a course in mountain first aid in Switserland. We were advised not to huddle together, because your body can’t produce enough heat for two persons. Which would mean, as a result of the (to) low temperature of your buddy you while get hypothermic as well. In point 5 you state to resist the urge of using heat packs and such. In the same course mentioned earlier, were learned the “hypothermia wrap” in which you do use a heat source on the chest. Please your comments on this.
    Jan Draaisma

  2. Adventure Discussions » Blog Archive » Spotlight Employee: Katie Wade Says:

    […] In the morning my group tried to get me up, but I was mumbling, stumbling, and fumbling—all signs of hypothermia. It was an out-of-body experience where everything seemed to be moving in slow motion and I felt […]

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