Hypothermia signs, symptoms and treatment

As winter draws in and temperatures drop, hypothermia can threaten survival whilst on your winter adventures and you may not be unaware of the signs.

Hypothermia can hit when you are not expecting it. Its is caused by your body-core temperature dropping low by exposure to cold environments.

How to Recognize Hypothermia

Mild Hypothermia

Mild hyperthermia set in when your core body temperature drops below 95ºF.

•When you feels cold and shiver uncontrollably.

•When you maintain a normal consciousness level, you remain alert, and have normal or slightly impaired coordination.

•When your core body temperature drops below 93ºF, you may develop slurred speech, suffer from memory loss, have poor judgment, and become careless.

Mild Hypothermia Treatment

1.Get yourself out of the cold environment and seek a sheltered environment.

2.Replace any wet clothing with dry, insulated garments.

3.Eat warm food and lots of sugary hot fluids (an average-size adult needs about 60 kilocalories of hot drinks or about 2 quarts of highly sugary liquids such as drink mixes) to elevate core temperature 10 F.

4.Slow down heat loss by wrapping yourself in a sleeping bag, plastic bag, or tarp. Huddling up with another person in a sleeping bag will help slow heat loss.

5.Do not use hot water bottles or heat packs. They can stop your body’s shivering mechanism, and they add very little heat to the body core. Instead, bring water to a boil and inhale the steam, or try to build a fire.

Profound Hypothermia

When your core body temperature drops below 90 degrees F, profound hypothermia develops.

•You will become weak and lethargic.

•TYour will have an altered mental state (you may become disoriented, confused, combative or irrational, or fall into a coma).

•You will find yourself uncoordinated.

•When your core body temperature drops below 88 degrees F, you will stop shivering.

•When your core body temperature drops below 86 degrees F, your heart will pump less than two thirds the normal amount of blood. Your pulse and breathing are half their normal rates.

•When your core body temperature drops below 83 degrees F, your heart will become very irritable and unstable, and likely to develop abnormalities. You will be in danger of cardiac arrest.

If you are with someone who you think may be suffering from hypothermia try the following sobriety Test for Hypothermia: An best test to determine if someone is developing profound hypothermia is to have the person try to walk a straight line, heel-to-toe, as in a sobriety test. If the person cannot perform this task and is not intoxicated, it indicates the progression from mild to profound hypothermia.

Profound Hypothermia Treatment

Treatment in the backcountry is aimed at stabilizing the person and preventing any further body-core cooling.

1.Handle the person very gently. Rough handling may cause his heart to fail.

2.Place the person in a sleeping bag, or place blankets or clothing underneath and on top of him. Any heat that you can provide will probably not rewarm the person but will help prevent further cooling.

3.A person with significantly altered mental state should not be allowed to eat or drink because of the potential for choking or vomiting.

4.Rewarming is best done in a hospital, because of the potential complications associated with profound hypothermia. Professional assistance is usually needed to evacuate a profoundly hypothermic person.

Caution: First-aid management of hypothermic victims should not be based solely on measurements of body temperature because it is often difficult to obtain an accurate temperature.

By this point it may be difficult to distinguish whether a person is profoundly hypothermic or dead. The profoundly hypothermic person may have a pulse and respirations that are barely detectable. Double-check carefully, feeling for the carotid pulse (it is found on either side of the center of the throat where the carotid artery goes to the head). Check this for at least one minute since the heart rate may be very slow. Place a glass or plastic surface next to the person’s mouth to see if it fogs up or creates water droplets on the glass.

At what point do you perform CPR: If the person is breathing or has no pulse, no matter how slow, do not initiate CPR, as this may cause the heart to stop beating completely. If there is no sign of a pulse or breathing after one minute, what to do next depends on your situation:

1.If you are alone or with only one other person, cover the hypothermic person and place him in a protected shelter (place insulation beneath and on top of him). Both rescuers should go for help and stay together for safety.

2.If there are multiple rescuers, and it is safe to stay with the victim, begin CPR. Chest compressions should be done a t on-half the normal rate. At least two people should go for help and stay together for safety.

3.If the person can be easily transported out of the backcountry in an improvised stretcher, the rescuers may elect to do this while performing CPR during the transport as best as possible.

Never assume that a profoundly hypothermic person is dead until his body has been warmed thoroughly and there are still no signs of life. It is possible, though rare, that one without detectable signs of life will recover when rewarmed.

Adapted from Wilderness 911: A Step-by Step Guide for Medical Emergiencies and Improvised Care in the Backcountry, Eric A. Weiss

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>