Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis

Hypothermia is a condition of low body temperature. The “normal” temperature in humans is 98.6°F. Hypothermia victims have temperatures below 95°F. There are many causes of hypothermia. The most common cause is prolonged exposure to low temperatures without adequate clothing. In this setting, alcohol consumption often is involved. Wet clothes or skin, windy conditions, and exposed skin contribute to temperature loss. Cold water immersion is the fastest way to become hypothermic. A number of medical conditions and drugs can contribute to hypothermia. Very small children and the elderly are especially at risk.

Living With Your Diagnosis
The early signs of hypothermia are feeling cold, shivering, “goosebumps,” blue discoloration of the lips, cold hands and feet, and the discomfort of the inability to get warm. As the body temperature falls below 90°F, shivering stops and the victim becomes confused. The heart rate slows and may become irregular. Alcohol and drugs may change the signs and symptoms. Alcohol may actually cause the victim to feel warm while the body temperature is falling. Fortunately, most victims respond to rewarming and recover fully.

The treatment for hypothermia is to remove the victim from the cold and rewarm. Wet clothes should be removed and replaced with dry clothes. Warm, noncaffeinated beverages can be given. The victim should be placed near a safe heat source. Wind and draft exposure should be avoided. The confused or unconscious hypothermia victim should receive emergency medical care.

The DOs
• Do dress appropriately for cold weather.
• Do consider the wind chill effect for prolonged cold weather exposure.
• Do take extra care with the elderly and small children.
• Do maintain adequate calorie and fluid intake.
• Do stay alert for dangerous weather situations and plan accordingly.
• Do replace wet clothing with dry as soon as possible.
• Do get out of cold water immediately. A few minutes can be deadly!

The DON’Ts
• Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or during cold exposure.
• Don’t underestimate the effect of wind and weather conditions.
• Don’t go boating alone on cold water.
• Don’t ignore your body’s signals that you are getting cold.
• Don’t travel in remote areas during cold weather without notification.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If the victim seems hypothermic and confused.
• Someone with medical conditions (such as diabetes) is hypothermic.
• If the very young or elderly become even mildly hypothermic.
• If the victim was ill before becoming hypothermic.

First Aid Book: http://www.medaccess.com/first_aid/FA_TOC.htm
Cold Injuries: http://www.nols.edu/School/Pubs/FirstAid/EX9Cold#HYPO