With colder weather fast approaching in North America, it is important to both keep warm and avoid dangerously cold temperatures. Hypothermia is especially risky this time of year, so let’s discuss what you need to know about hypothermia and how to treat it:
What is Hypothermia?
Just like heat stroke, the body shuts down when it’s too cold as well, resulting in hypothermia. Typically, this is most common at temperatures under freezing, but in some cases, hypothermia may occur at up to 40⸰ Fahrenheit. Hypothermia is most commonly identified by shivers, memory loss, exhaustion or drowsiness, memory loss, confusion, and slurred speech.
Fortunately, hypothermia is preventable—all you need to do is bundle up before going outside.
The Five Stages of Hypothermia
Hypothermia works in five main stages, each with varying severity based on body temperature. Between 95-89.6⸰ is stage 1. Someone at stage one may feel cold and shiver, so it’s best to get them somewhere warm. Stage 2 rests between 89.6-82.4⸰ and is when shivering stops. At this stage, someone’s consciousness will be impaired. At stage 3, the person with hypothermia will be unconscious, and it may be hard to detect vital signs. Stage 3 hypothermia usually occurs between 82.4-75.2⸰. Stage 4, ranging from 75.2-59⸰, is when victims are near death. At this point, damage may be reversible. Once the body hits stage 5, however, recovery is impossible.
Noticing the signs of hypothermia is the first step to treating it. Once you see shivers, it is best to get help instead of waiting. To treat hypothermia, it is best to be as gentle as possible while warming someone up. Remove any wet clothes and move to a warmer or more sheltered location, away from the cold ground. Then, you’ll need to insulate the person’s body using blankets and monitor their breathing, especially if they have already lost consciousness. If the affected person is able, get them something warm to drink, and provide them with a hot, dry compress. When helping someone out of hypothermia, be sure to avoid applying direct heat, so you don’t burn them.
When to See a Doctor
Depending on the severity of a hypothermia case, a doctor or medical professional may be needed. If someone has lost consciousness out in the cold, always call for help—it can save a life!