Every winter many people skiing, hiking or otherwise just outside longer than expected get frostbite – that we all know.
Yet according to health experts, hypothermia is of even greater concern than frostbite. Not recognizing and taking proper steps for even the initial signs and symptoms of mild hypothermia can be deadly.
Here are the signs and symptoms of mild hypothermia, which occurs when a person’s internal temperature drops to 95 degrees.
- The victim feels cold, causing shivering to reach a maximum level.
- The victim maintains a normal level of consciousness, is alert, and has normal or only slightly impaired coordination.
Then, with a drop in internal temperature just two more degrees down to 93 degrees:
- The victim develops apathy, amnesia, slurred speech, and poor judgment.
As this point it is important to quickly provide the correct treatment:
- Get the victim into shelter and insulate him or her from the cold.
- Replace any wet clothing with dry, insulated garments.
- Give the victim warm food and lots of sugar containing fluids to drink. Elevating the core temperature of an average sized individual one degree requires consuming about 60 kilocalories worth of hot beverage. Because a quart of hot soup at 140 degrees provides about 30 kilocalories, a victim would have to consume two quarts to raise his temperature one degree. The sugar content of the fluid, however, will provide added fuel for the victim’s furnace so that he can generate his own internal heat.
- Heat loss may be slowed by wrapping the victim in plastic bags or tarps as well as sleeping bags. Huddling together will reduce heat loss.
- Resist the urge to use hot water bottles or heat packs; they can turn off the shivering mechanism and, by themselves, add very little heat to the core. Instead, bring water to boil and have the victim inhale the steam, or build a fire.
Health officials estimate that 1,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. among people who become overexposed to cold air or water. Knowing the signs, symptoms and effective treatment of hypothermia can help reduce this number considerably.