Hypothermia happens when a person’s core body temperature is lower than 35°C (95°F). Hypothermia has three levels: acute, subacute, or chronic.
Acute hypothermia is caused by a rapid loss of body heat, usually from immersion in cold water.
Subacute hypothermia often happens in cool outdoor weather (below 10°C or 50°F) when wind chill, wet or too little clothing, fatigue, and/or poor nutrition lower the body’s ability to cope with cold.
Chronic hypothermia happens from ongoing exposure to cold indoor temperatures (below 16°C or 60°F). The poor, the elderly, people who have hypothyroidism, people who take sedative-hypnotics, and drug and alcohol abusers are prone to chronic hypothermia, and they typically:
· misjudge cold
· move slowly
· have poor nutrition
· wear too little clothing
· have poor heating system
Causes of Hypothermia
- Cold temperatures
- Improper clothing, shelter, or heating
- Fatigue, exhaustion
- Poor fluid intake (dehydration)
- Poor food intake
- Alcohol intake
- Everyone, especially the elderly and ill, should have adequate food, clothing, shelter, and sources of heat.
- Blankets can help, even in poorly heated rooms.
- Wear layers of clothing and a hat, which help to keep in body heat.
- Move around. Physical activity raises body temperature.
Water cooler than 75°F (24°C) removes body heat more rapidly than can be replaced. The result is hypothermia. To avoid hypothermia:
- Avoid swimming or wading in water if possible.
If entering water is necessary:
- Wear high rubber boots in water.
- Ensure clothing and boots have adequate insulation.
- Avoid working/playing alone.
- Take frequent breaks out of the water.
- Change into dry clothing when possible.
Helping Someone Who Is Hypothermic
As the body temperature decreases, the person will be less awake and aware and may be confused and disoriented. Because of this, even a mildly hypothermic person might not think to help himself/herself.
- Even someone who shows no signs of life should be brought quickly and carefully to a hospital or other medical facility.
- Do not rub or massage the skin.
- People who have severe hypothermia must be carefully rewarmed and their temperatures must be monitored.
- Do not use direct heat or hot water to warm the person.
- Give the person warm beverages to drink.
- Do not give the person alcohol or cigarettes. Blood flow needs to be improved, and these slow blood flow.
Information from the CDC