Hypothermia: Recognize and manage one

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Hypothermia can range from mild chills and shivering to coma and even death. This cold-related condition causes the core body temperature to drop less than 95 degrees F.

Signs and symptoms of hypothermia

  • Exhaustion
  • Shivering
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of motor control

Take not that some cold exposure are worse than others. If the individual is wet, the individual loses body heat relatively faster than those who are dry. Even windy conditions can cause the individual to lose heat rapidly as well.

How to manage hypothermia

Always make sure that the individual has a clear airway and breathing.
  • The initial step in helping an individual suffering from hypothermia is to stay safe. In case it is cold enough to cause hypothermia to the victim, it can also cause the same for the rescuer. You have to follow the universal precautions and use protective gear and equipment if on hand.
  • Always make sure that the individual has a clear airway and breathing. Check the ABC of first aid. Remember though that the condition of the individual might worsen as they warm up. As the cold blood in the extremities start to flow back to the heart, the body temperature might drop. You have to be prepared for the change in the condition of the individual.
  • You have to stop the exposure and move the individual to a dry, warm shelter.
  • Call for emergency assistance if the individual has signs of severe hypothermia such as confusion, fumbling hands, slurred speech and coma.
  • You have to remove any wet clothing and leave behind the dry clothing.
  • Cover the individual with blankets. Take note that warming blankets, specifically electric blankets work best.
  • You can also use chemical heat packs over the groin, armpit and neck of the individual.
  • If the individual is able to follow commands and sit upright, you can provide him/her with warm, non-alcoholic beverages.

Important tips to bear in mind

Once the hypothermia progresses, the shivering stops so that the body can conserve energy. An individual with hypothermia who stops shivering simply indicates that the condition is worsening.

An individual who is unconscious might have other health issues. Do not forget that there are various causes of coma that you should be familiar with.

An individual who was exposed to cold temperatures might also be suffering from frostbite.

Even though alcohol seems to warm the body since it flushes the skin with warm blood, it is easily cooled once it reaches the skin surface. Remember that alcohol hastens the development of hypothermia and can even cause dehydration.

When an individual with severe hypothermia starts to recover, the cold blood from the extremities is pulled back to the core of the body. This can lead to a decrease in the core body temperature and aggravates the condition. You have to closely monitor the individual since they might suffer from cardiac arrest and require CPR. If this occurs, you have to follow the ABC of first aid.

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