Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops if the body loses more heat rapidly than what is being produced. Individuals who have been out in the cold, staying in a cold room or becomes wet and cold can end up with the condition.

The symptoms usually develop in a gradual manner. Once the body temperature drops, it is difficult to think clearly thus the individual might already developed hypothermia and not realize it.

What are the indications?

Hypothermia

Once the body temperature drops, it is difficult to think clearly thus the individual might already developed hypothermia and not realize it.

It is important to note that the condition usually starts with shivering that later becomes uncontrollable. This is followed by symptoms linked to changes in the blood flow and involvement of the brain.

The common indications of hypothermia include the following:

  • Clumsiness
  • Apathy or lack of concern
  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Desire to lie down, remove clothing or burrow
  • Exhaustion
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Stumbling

What are the risk factors?

Various factors increase the risk for developing hypothermia such as the following:

  • Dehydration
  • Using certain medications
  • Extended periods of being exposed to the cold
  • Dementia
  • Extremes of age (infants or elderly)
  • Malnutrition
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lack of heating or clothing
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sepsis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke or brain tumor
  • Using prohibited drugs or alcohol

Management

Hypothermia is managed by warming the body and removing any wet clothing. It is vital to focus initially on warming the central region of the body, otherwise the blood vessels of the skin might dilate and the temperature drops.

Once the temperature rises, the extremities can also be warmed. The individual should stay dry and warm and seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if the individual appears dead, the combination of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and warming the body can result to a successful resuscitation.

Remember that the main objective of treatment is to restore the body to its normal temperature. This must be carried out carefully to prevent further injury and extreme heat must be avoided.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on hypothermia is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage environmental conditions including hypothermia, register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.

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