When your body loses heat more quickly than it can produce it, it can result in hypothermia, a medical emergency marked by a dangerously low body temperature. Around 98.6 F (37 C) is the normal body temperature. When your body temperature drops below 95 F (35 C), you are said to be hypothermic.
Your heart, neurological system, and other organs can’t function properly when your body temperature falls. Hypothermia can cause total heart and breathing system failure, which can ultimately result in death if left untreated.
Immersion in cold water or exposure to cold weather are common causes of hypothermia. Warming the body back to normal temperature is the main treatment for hypothermia.
As the temperature drops, shivering is probably the first thing you’ll notice because it’s your body’s natural attempt to warm itself in response to the cold.
Hypothermia’s signs and symptoms include:
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Pale skin
- Bright red, cold skin (in infants)
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Being clumsy or lack of coordination
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
- Urination more than usual
- Weak pulse
Since the symptoms of hypothermia frequently appear gradually, a person suffering from the condition is typically unaware of it. Furthermore, hypothermia’s disordered thinking inhibits self-awareness. Additionally, risk-taking behavior can result from the confused mindset.
If you think someone may be hypothermic, call your local emergency number.
If you can, transfer the victim inside gently while you wait for emergency assistance to come. Dangerously irregular heartbeats can be brought on by abrupt movements. With caution, take off his or her damp clothes and replace them with cozy, dry blankets or coats.
When your body loses heat more quickly than it is generating it, you have hypothermia. Exposure to cold weather or cold water is the most frequent cause of hypothermia. However, hypothermia can result from extended exposure to any environment that is colder than your body if you are ill-prepared or unable to manage the weather.
The following specific circumstances can result in hypothermia:
- Prolonged exposure to the cold
- Dressing in clothing that is not warm enough for the outside temperature
- Plunging into the water, as in a boating mishap.
- Not being able to change out of wet clothing or go somewhere warm and dry
- Residing in a home with inadequate heating or excessive air conditioning
Risk factors for hypothermia include:
- Older age. As we age, our body’s capacity to control our body’s temperature and detect cold may diminish. Furthermore, some elderly people might not be able to tell others when they’re chilly or to go to a warm place when they do.
- Being young. Youngsters lose heat more quickly than adults do. Kids might also disregard the cold if they’re too busy having fun to give it any attention. Additionally, they can lack the common sense to dress appropriately for the cold or to get out of the cold when it’s time.
- Certain medical conditions. The ability of your body to control body temperature is impacted by certain medical conditions. Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, anorexia nervosa, malnutrition, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, severe arthritis, trauma, and spinal cord injuries are a few examples.
- People participating in cold-weather sports. Winter sports like skiing are typically played in colder climates with variable weather patterns. Because of the exertion and perspiration, the activity level predisposes heat loss. Participants in these sports run the risk of becoming hurt, and in extreme cases, it can change their ability to make decisions.
- Inexperienced outdoor adventure seekers. This includes hunters, anglers, and hikers who may not have the right equipment for the potentially chilly and rainy weather.
- Mental problems. Individuals who suffer from mental illness, dementia, or other illnesses that impair their judgment might not know the dangers of cold weather or know how to dress correctly for the weather. Individuals suffering from dementia have a higher likelihood of becoming lost or wandering outside during inclement weather.
- Medications. The body’s capacity to control its temperature can be altered by some medications. Narcotic painkillers, antipsychotics, some antidepressants, and sedatives are a few examples.
- Alcohol and drug use. Although alcohol may make you feel warm on the inside, it also causes your blood vessels to dilate, which speeds up the rate at which heat escapes from the surface of your skin. Alcohol consumption reduces a person’s body’s natural shivering reaction.
Furthermore, using recreational drugs or alcohol might cloud your judgment when it comes to knowing when it’s time to bundle up indoors or wear warm clothing. Hypothermia is likely to occur in an inebriated individual who passes out in cold conditions.