Hypothermia is a condition which occurs when the body temperature drops below 95°F. Severe complications can result from this drop in temperature, including death. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because it affects your ability to think clearly. This can decrease your likelihood of seeking medical help.

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What Causes Hypothermia?

Chilly weather is the primary cause of hypothermia. When your body experiences extremely cold temperatures, it loses heat more quickly than it can produce it. Staying in cold water too long can also cause these effects.

The inability to produce adequate body heat is extremely dangerous. Your body temperature can drop quickly and significantly.

Moreover, if you step into an extremely cold, air-conditioned room immediately after being outside, you risk losing too much body heat in a short period which again results to hypothermia.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypothermia?

The most common symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • excessive shivering
  • slowed breathing
  • slowed speech
  • clumsiness
  • stumbling
  • confusion

Someone who has excessive fatigue, a weak pulse, or who is unconscious may also be hypothermic.

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What Are the Treatment Options for Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a medical emergency. Call an ambulance immediately if you suspect that you or someone you know has hypothermia.

The goal of hypothermia treatment is to increase your body temperature to a normal range. While waiting for emergency care, the affected person or their caregiver can take a few steps to remedy the situation:

Handle the person with care.

Handle the affected person with care. Don’t massage them in an attempt to restore blood flow. Any forceful or excessive movements may cause cardiac arrest. Move or shield them from the cold.

Remove the person’s wet clothing.

Remove the person’s wet clothes. If necessary, cut them off to avoid moving the individual. Cover them with warm blankets, including their face, but not their mouth. If blankets aren’t available, use your body heat to warm them.

If they’re conscious, try to give them warm beverages or soup, which can help to increase body temperature.

Apply warm compresses.

Apply warm (not hot), dry compresses to the individual, such as a warmed water bottle or a warmed towel. Only apply the compresses to the chest, neck, or groin. Don’t apply compresses to the arms or legs, and do not use a heating pad or heat lamp. Applying a compress to these areas will push cold blood back toward the heart, lungs, and brain, which could be fatal. Temperatures that are too hot can burn the skin or cause cardiac arrest.

Monitor the person’s breathing.

Monitor the individual’s breathing. If their breathing seems dangerously slow, or if they lose consciousness, perform CPR if you’re trained to do so.

Medical Treatment

Severe hypothermia is medically treated with warm fluids, often saline injected into the veins. A doctor will rewarm the blood, a procedure in which they draw blood, warm it, and then put it back into the body.

Airway rewarming can also be done through masks and nasal tubes. Warming the stomach through a cavity lavage, or stomach pump, in which a warm saltwater solution pumps into the stomach, can also help.