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Updated: June 1, 2013 18:16 IST
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Cold truth

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Hypothermia occurs due to exposure to cold weather or in illnesses where the body is not able to retain heat.
Special Arrangement Hypothermia occurs due to exposure to cold weather or in illnesses where the body is not able to retain heat.

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.

Risk factors

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

Mild

Chills, numbness and shivering

Slight loss of muscle power

Reduced coordination

Moderate -

Person becomes slow, confused

Generalised weakness

Shivering

Movement becomes slow

Severe

Person becomes stiff, rigid, and unable to move

Very poor co-ordination

Shivering stops

Irrational behaviour

Weak pulse

Very drowsy

May lose consciousness.

Do’s

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

Don’ts

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: enquiry@vivohealthcare.com or info@vivohealthcare.com

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