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Hypothermia: Know the Symptoms and First Aid Treatment

First Aid Tips For Hypothermia Infographic - CPR SELECT

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July 2, 2022

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Hypothermia is a dangerous medical emergency involving low body heat temperature. It is caused by prolonged exposure to frigid temperatures. When exposed to a cold environment, the human body loses body heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposure to cold temperature will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lowering core body temperature. Other factors and conditions can increase the risk of hypothermia, including extremes in age and specific health conditions, such as malnutrition.

Symptoms and First Aid Treatment for Hypothermia

The stages of hypothermia range from mild hypothermia to severe. Even the mild stage is an emergency. That’s why it’s crucial to call 911 if you notice its signs. While waiting for the emergency medical services team to arrive, it’s essential to do first aid to increase the chances of survival. First aid treatment entails getting the person to a warm, dry place and removing clothing. The below graphical representation shows the symptoms and first aid tips for hypothermia:

Hypothermia - CPR Select

Symptoms and Signs of Hypothermia:

Hypothermia can be differentiated into three stages – mild hypothermia, moderate hypothermia, or severe hypothermia. The symptoms and signs of Hypothermia can be approximately grouped with the temperature ranges of the different stages:

  • Drop in body temperature below 95°F for mild hypothermia, below 90°F for moderate hypothermia, and below 82°F for severe hypothermia.
  • Exhaustion or drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Numb hands and feet
  • Shallow breathing
  • Confusion, memory loss, or slurred speech
  • Shivering
  • Weak pulse
  • High blood pressure, fast heart rate, and contraction of blood vessels

First Aid for Hypothermia:

The first aid treatment depends on the degree of hypothermia, but the aim is to make the person warmer. Anyone with symptoms of hypothermia needs immediate medical care. The first Aid responder may do the following while waiting for the emergency medical services team to arrive. 

1. Get the hypothermic person indoors.

2. Remove wet clothing and dry the person off

3. Warm the hypothermic person’s trunk first, not hands and feet. Do not use direct heat, such as a heat lamp, to warm the person.

4. For someone with mild or moderate hypothermia, warm the person by wrapping them in blankets or by putting on dry clothing.

5. Do not immerse the hypothermic person in warm water. Rapid warming can cause heart arrhythmia. 

6. If using hot water bottles or a chemical heating pad, wrap them in a cloth. Don’t apply them directly to the skin.

7. If someone has severe hypothermia and may be unconscious, start CPR immediately. Do not stop, even in a patient who appears dead, until the core body temperature is greater than 89.6°F (30°C to 32°C) and still no signs of life.

8. If the hypothermic person is conscious, give him a warm drink. Avoid caffeine or alcohol because it increases the risk of hypothermia

9. Once the body temperature rises, keep the hypothermic person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket.

10. When advanced medical care is available, health care providers will continue warming efforts, including providing intravenous fluids and warm, moist oxygen. Severe hypothermia is medically treated with warm liquids, and often saline injected into the veins.

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Conclusion

The normal body temperature is 98.6°F or 37°C. Hypothermia occurs as human body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C). While hypothermia is most likely at frigid temperatures, it can occur even at cold temperatures above 40°Fahrenheit if a person becomes chilled from the rain or submerged in cold water. When treating a hypothermic person, your aim is to warm the casualty slowly, using blankets, hats, and sleeping bags. Do not try to suddenly warm the casualty by placing them in a hot bath or using a heat lamp, as these could send blood to the skin, legs, hands, feet, and away from the brain and heart, which could cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

If you want to learn more about Hypothermia and other first-aid skills, you may enroll in a Basic First Aid Course Online. This online certification class provides knowledge in First Aid situations and their management, different types of injuries like broken bones, poisoning, burns, strokes, and seizures for children and adults.

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