Hypothermia can affect anyone in prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Being true to our commitment to teach you to help out in an emergency confidently here is a First Aid Tip.
What is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia refers to a drastic drop in body temperature due to prolonged exposure to cold, as the body loses heat faster than it can produce. This is dangerous because low body temperatures can affect the brain, causing the person to be increasingly disorientated or lead to problems in the heart, nervous system, and other organs. To illustrate, normal body temperature is around 37ºC, and hypothermia occurs when the body temperature is below 35ºC, and becomes severe when the body temperature drops below 32ºC. Left untreated, Hypothermia can have devastating effects, such as heart failure.
Hypothermia does not only occur at extreme low temperatures, but also if the person becomes chilled by rain, or from being submerged in cold water.
Causes of Hypothermia can be described under three broad headings:
1 . Increased heat loss
2 . Decreased heat production
Who is at risk?
Hypothermia can affect anyone, though those at higher risk include people over 75 years old, babies and young children, people who work outdoors, and anyone with underlying physical impediments such as poor blood circulation, diabetes, infections, or low body fat.
Preparation, Detection, and Treatment.
We suggest a simple and easy approach to help you remember to keep yourself safe and healthy this winter: “AVOID. SPOT. TREAT”
In the winter months be cautious of the cold temperatures, do not go out if it is too cold, and cover up when you do.
To help prevent a situation of Hypothermic Shock:
Listen to weather forecasts
Plan ahead and limit time spent outdoors. This goes for workplaces and schools also: schedule “warm-up” breaks for outdoor workers and hold recess or lunch breaks inside.
Dress in layers
Stay Dry (this also includes avoiding overexertion and anything that will cause you to sweat a lot).
Get out of the cold as soon as you start to feel a chill
Be cautious that certain medications can make you more susceptible to the cold.
When indoors, ensure heating is sufficient to combat the cold.
If you are traveling this winter, consider winter car safety also. Whether you expect to be traveling in bad weather or not, be sure to know where you are heading and how close emergency services are. It is always a good idea to keep your own First Aid Kit in the car with you in case of any winter travel trouble. If you need a new travel First Aid Kit to keep you safe, visit: Travel. Remote First Aid Kits are designed to provide for extra cover when more than 1 hour from a medical facility and will normally include a Thermal Blanket to help with exposure to cold.
The most common visible symptoms and warning signs of Hypothermia in adults include:
exhaustion or feeling very tired
slow, shallow breathing
For infants, look out for cold pale skin and blue lips and possibly fingernail as they are unable to control their body temperature and DO NOT shiver.
Children up to the age of around 5 also are unable to control their body temperature well, and would need to be watched closely for symptoms.
If you have identified the symptoms above, take action. There are five stages of Hypothermia, though the first three can be most effectively treatable:
- Mild Hypothermia
- Moderate Hypothermia
- Severe Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a medical emergency so if the person’s temperature reads below 35ºC, get medical attention immediately by dialing 000. To help treat someone at each stage of Hypothermia, refer to the table below and start slowly restoring warmth by removing wet clothes and replacing with dry clothing, warming the person’s body while avoiding direct heat contact, and warm beverages (only if conscious, and avoid caffeine).
The body is 35-32 degrees, and the person is normal or near consciousness and shivering.
Move them out of the cold and remove any wet clothing and replace with dry clothing, begin to slowly warm their body by wrapping them in a blanket.You can give them a warm drink.
If body temperature increases, keep the person in a dry warm place until ambulance arrives
32 – 28 degrees. shivering stops, consciousness becomes impaired
Handle the person gently and continue warming them slowly in a blanket, using your body heat can help add warmth, so jump under the blanket with them.
AVOID direct heat contact with the skin (this includes immersing in warm water, direct contact with heat packs or hot water bottles, as rapid warming can cause heart arrhythmia).
28 – 24 degrees. Unconscious, may be difficult to detect vital signs
Handle the person gently, and get emergency assistance immediately, continue warming them slowly in a blanket, using your body heat can help add warmth, so jump under the blanket with them.
Perform CPR if the person is unconscious and not breathing.
You may be required to begin CPR if necessary while warming the person, if you have not yet completed a CPR course, you can do so here and be prepared to help in an emergency.