How to Assess and Treat Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a medical emergency occurring when a person’s body loses heat quicker than it can produce it. This results in a seriously low body temperature falling below 95 degrees F. In this state, the body’s nervous system, heart and other organs are unable to function properly and serious injury or death can occur. While hypothermia is usually caused by immersion in cold water or exposure to cold weather, it can also occur unexpectedly when temperatures aren’t extremely cold.
In Children and Adults:
- Memory loss, confusion or slurred speech
- Body temperature under 95 degrees Fahrenheit
- Loss of consciousness
- Drowsiness or exhaustion
- Shallow breathing
- Numb feet or hands
- Cold but unable to shiver
- Very low energy
- Cold and/or bright red skin
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that demands professional assistance. That said, there are some immediate steps you can take to improve a person’s chances of recovery.
- Restore Warmth Slowly
- Move the person to an indoor location.
- Remove any wet clothing and use towels to dry the person if necessary.
- Start by warming the person’s trunk, instead of the feet or hands, since the latter can cause shock.
- Put dry clothes on the person and/or wrap him or her in blankets.
- Don’t immerse the person in warm water, since rapid warming can lead to heart arrhythmia.
- Begin CPR if necessary
- If the person isn’t breathing normally, begin CPR and continue until emergency services arrive.
- Administer Warm Fluids
- If the person is conscious, provide a warm drink; however, avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
- Maintain Body Temperature
- Once the person’s body temperature starts to ascend, keep him or her dry.
- Wrap the person’s neck and head if possible.
Once you’ve taken immediate steps to improve the person’s condition, seek medical attention. Health care professionals will continue warming strategies and provide warm, moist oxygen and intravenous fluids.