Easy-to-follow tips that help one tackle hypothermia. The fifth part in the series on handling common medical emergencies.
Hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls below normal. This affects normal functioning. In severe cases it can lead to death. It occurs due to exposure to cold weather or in illnesses where the body is not able to retain heat.
Exposure to cold
Age (elderly people and infants are at higher risk)
Chronic illness and fatigue
Drugs and alcohol
Brain tumors and head injuries that affect the temperature control centre in the brain
Shock (excessive bleeding or dehydration)
Signs to look for
Chills, numbness and shivering
Slight loss of muscle power
Person becomes slow, confused
Movement becomes slow
Person becomes stiff, rigid, and unable to move
Very poor co-ordination
May lose consciousness.
Move the person to a warm area.
Activate emergency medical response.
Remove wet clothing and replace with dry warm clothing.
Quickly warm the patient using blankets or heat packs. Don’t place the heat packs directly on the skin.
If the person is conscious and alert, give warm liquids eg. milk, soup
Check responsiveness, breathing and temperature
Do not give alcohol, caffeine, or any drink that is too hot.
Do not warm too rapidly.
Do not place any heat source next to victim in case it causes burns.
Do not shake victim of extreme hypothermia vigorously, as this may cause cardiac arrest.
Extract from Medical Emergency Handbook, VIVO Healthcare, Rs.199. To buy the book, contact VIVO Healthcare, DLF City Club, DLF City Phase 4, Gurgaon 122009. Ph: +91-124-4365848 +91-8860004734. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com