When your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, a situation may occur where all of your body’s energy is used up trying to produce heat.The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.
Victims of hypothermia are most often elderly people with inadequate food, clothing, or heating; babies sleeping in cold bedrooms; and people who remain outdoors for long periods — the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.
Each person is affected differently by the cold. Wet and cold can bring hypothermia on rapidly, or long exposure to the cold, rain, and wind can bring the symptoms of hypothermia on slowly.
Mild hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature is between 98.6° and 96°F. The core temperature for moderate hypothermia is 95° to 93°F. If your core temperature reaches 92° or below, you are in a life-threatening situation. This condition will affect your heart rate, blood flow, and ability to think clearly. Immediate attention is necessary.
Signs and Symptoms of hypothermia:
- confusion/memory loss
- slurred speech
- bright red, cold skin
- very low energy
If you believe you or someone else is suffering from hypothermia, it is imperative to get to a warm room or shelter and call for help. While you wait for help to arrive, remove any wet clothing and warm the center of the victim’s body first. An electric blanket works well if one is available. Skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets may also be effective. Drinking warm beverages — NOT ALCOHOL — will also help increase the body temperature. Once the body temperature has increased, keep the victim dry and wrapped in a warm blanket including the head and neck until help arrives.
If the victim is suffering from severe hypothermia, he or she may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or appear to be breathing. In this case, you need to handle the victim gently and get emergency assistance immediately.