Imagine being so cold that you actually start to feel incredibly, irrationally hot. This is what can happen during the final stages of hypothermia. Unfortunately, some people do not recognize the signs until it’s too late—confusion is one possible symptom of hypothermia.
At Unitek EMT, we recently started a series that examines specific conditions, provides relevant information, and reviews what should typically be done until EMS workers arrive.1 In this second installment, we’re going to take a look at hypothermia and the havoc it wreaks in the human body.
We’ve taken our information directly from a website called the Mayo Clinic. They are a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, and providing expert care to those who need healing.
Now, let’s delve a little deeper into hypothermia…
What Is Hypothermia?
According to the Mayo Clinic, hypothermia is a “medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature.” Normal body temperature tends to fall around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia can occur if your temperature drops below 95 F (35 C).
So, what exactly happens when your temperature falls? In short, your heart, nervous system, and other organs can no longer operate in a normal fashion. When left untreated, hypothermia may lead to heart failure and even death.
The following are some situations that could lead to hypothermia:
- Wearing clothes that aren’t warm enough for current weather conditions
- Staying out in the cold too long
- Being unable to get out of wet clothes or move to a warm, dry location
- Falling into water (i.e. a boating accident)
- Living in a house that’s too cold, either from poor heating or too much air conditioning
How Do You Recognize Hypothermia?
The Mayo Clinic cites shivering as the first symptom you’ll likely notice when your temperature drops. It’s your body’s instinctive response to plummeting temperatures. In other words, your body attempts to warm itself.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia may include:
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Weak pulse
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
- Bright red, cold skin (in infants)
It’s important to remember that someone with hypothermia may not be aware of their condition because the symptoms are often gradual. Additionally, confusion or memory loss—two possible symptoms—can prevent self-awareness and lead to risky behavior.
How Do You Provide First Aid for Hypothermia?
Call your local emergency number if you think someone has hypothermia. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should then take these steps before EMS workers arrive:
“Gently move the person inside if possible. Jarring movements can trigger dangerous irregular heartbeats. Carefully remove his or her wet clothing, replacing it with warm, dry coats or blankets.”
How Do You Prevent Hypothermia?
The best thing you can do is ensure that you stay warm in cold weather. Remembering this simple acronym may help you in the future—COLD, or cover, overexertion, layers, and dry. The Mayo Clinic breaks down what each part means:
+ Cover. “Wear a hat or other protective covering to prevent body heat from escaping from your head, face and neck. Cover your hands with mittens instead of gloves.”
+ Overexertion. “Avoid activities that would cause you to sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.”
+ Layers. “Wear loose fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold body heat better than cotton does.”
+ Dry. “Stay as dry as possible. Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Be especially careful to keep your hands and feet dry, as it’s easy for snow to get into mittens and boots.”
For more information about hypothermia—including child safety and winter car safety—be sure to check out the Mayo Clinic section that’s dedicated to this particular condition. It’s easier than you might think to develop hypothermia!
A Brief Overview of Unitek EMT
At Unitek EMT, we strive to prepare aspiring Emergency Medical Technicians by providing them with EMT training and an accelerated EMT program. Experts in the EMS field educate our students through a combination of traditional learning, simulation training, and workshop-style classes.
Additionally, we offer a program with several variations to better accommodate our students. These include a 14-Day Boot Camp2 at our Fremont Campus in Northern California, and a modified version of the Boot Camp at our facility in Chandler, Arizona. If you’d like more information, please contact us toll free at 888-790-1458.
Help save lives with Unitek EMT!
1 Unitek EMT provides this information for general interest only, not as medical advice.
2 Our 14-Day EMT Program in AZ and the 14-Day on-ground portion of the EMT Program in CA are taught in an intensive “boot camp” style, to simulate the fast pace of work expected on the job as an EMT. The California EMT Program also includes online instructional hours.