Hypothermia is the medical term for abnormally low body temperature. This condition is diagnosed if a patient’s temperature is lower than ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit (thirty-five degrees Celsius). Hypothermia can occur in individuals of any age and is most commonly caused by exposure to winter conditions such as snow and ice. It can also be caused by being immersed in cold water. Infants and the elderly are at an increased risk for hypothermia, which is considered a medical emergency and requires prompt treatment. Infants may develop hypothermia after sleeping in a room that is too cold for them. The elderly often have poor circulation and can develop hypothermia if their homes or bedrooms are not warm enough for them in the winter.
In the advanced stages, hypothermia can lead to heart problems and organ failure, and it may eventually cause death if left untreated. Symptoms of hypothermia typically begin with shivering. As it progresses, other symptoms such as weak pulse, confusion, memory loss, slow breathing, drowsiness, or loss of consciousness may appear. To diagnose hypothermia, doctors look at the physical signs the patient is experiencing, and they may also perform blood tests to determine the stage of hypothermia a patient has.
The steps outlined below can help treat early-stage hypothermia. Emergency care should be sought if these steps do not help or if advanced symptoms such as drowsiness and slow breathing are present.
Get Out Of The Cold
Since this condition is particularly prevalent among individuals who spend time outdoors, the most important step in treatment is for the patient to get out of the cold. If patients are outside when they begin experiencing symptoms, they should move to the nearest warm location as soon as possible. For campers, this might include moving inside their tent or seeking shelter at warmer campsite facilities. Travelers should try to move to their cars or a nearby building. If possible, the location to which patients move should be both warm and dry. For patients who are already too ill to walk or for those who cannot be moved, caregivers should try to protect them from the cold as much as they can. The patient should be kept in a horizontal position for safety.
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