What is Hypothermia?
When a person starts losing heat, their body undergoes certain changes to avoid shutting down its internal processes. For example, many skiers and mountain men fall victim to hypothermia, for their protective equipment did not pride the adequate heating. Loss of internal heat usually occurs when temperature from the outside affects the temperature of the body; and going by how much it affects it we can distinguish 3 different levels of hypothermia.
- Mild Hypothermia – is when the body’s eternal temperature drops to 31 – 35ºC
- Moderate Hypothermia – when the core temperature drops below 28 – 31ºC
- Severe Hypothermia – internal temperature drops below 28ºC.
Different individuals can experience these levels on varying temperatures. People with more body fat percentage can retain more heat, where as a person with low-body fat percentage will lose heat rapidly. In some cases loss of appendages and organ failure are real possibilities.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia
- Mild to severe shivering (The first indicator that a person is cold).
- Brain Fog
- Slurred and/or confused speech.
- Impaired motor function
- General fatigue, memory loss and indifference
- Mild/Moderate Hypothermia – pale skin
These are of course preliminary indicators that the body is rapidly losing its heat! Severe cases of hypothermia may include:
- No shivering (The body is giving up the fight)
- Blue skin (starting from the lower appendages)
- Kidney Failure
Some people might not recognize they have hypothermia due to a mental illness, or consumption of drugs or alcohol. Malnutrition can also attribute to faster hypothermia onset (a big part of the energy created by digesting food goes to keeping the body warm).
Treatment of Hypothermia
There is only one way to treat hypothermia. Start by placing the person in a warm and draft free environment. Be very careful not to place a person suffering from hypothermia near a direct heat source. Start by stripping the person naked if needed; taking off wet clothing, shoes, coat etc. Warm the person gradually using a blanket or a number of blankets. Tend to any frost-bite wounds as soon as you notice them. Try to give the patient some warm liquids – coffee and soda should be avoided for they drain heat form the body. Measure the heat using a thermometer to determine when the person is warm enough. Also it is very important not to use warm water (as if you would thaw a frozen chicken leg).
If a person is in critical condition, be sure to call the proper authorities. Some cases of hypothermia are irreversible, some are treatable. A medical expert must have a say one way or the other, but if you know CPR don’t be afraid to apply its principles. Hypothermia is sometimes mistaken for death; meaning a CPR practitioner should continue resuscitation procedures even if no sign of breathing or brain activity are visible.
Hypothermia is preventable by dressing up in proper clothing. If you frequent the mountains, it is a good idea to carry a signal rocket, a GPS and always have someone who knows where you are. Even if there is a mountain patrol nearby, being buried under an avalanche for example, almost always results in tragic outcomes if the victim is not well prepared. So being mindful of the climate and having all the necessary tools and equipment is crucial for preventing hypothermia.
Today’s Guest Author: Rose Finchley loves to write about health and health problems. She works for http://www.qualitycleaninglondon.co.uk/cleaning-services-sw8-vauxhall/ and in the same time she is studying to be a nurse.