Everyone has heard of the term hypothermia, but what does it mean, and what are the symptoms? Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. If it gets too low, then the direct flow of blood to your organs slows down. Organs will eventually begin to fail, leading to death. It is really important to know the symptoms of hypothermia, and stay warm this winter season to avoid it. The most common cause of hypothermia is being exposed to cold weather or cold water. Not dressing properly in cold weather conditions will cause hypothermia. Keep your house at a safe warm temperature, and if you go outside, make sure to wear multiple layers of clothing.
The colder you get due to your body temperature dropping, the harder it gets to think and move. So when hypothermia sets, people will not try to get warm or stay safe because they can’t think right. A person will want to lie down and do to sleep when going through hypothermia because of their organs shutting down. Once they fall asleep, they are at a high risk of dying. Some symptoms to look out for are:
- Slurred speech
- Low energy
- Memory Loss
- Weak pulse
- Frostbite developing
- Decay of tissues can result if out too long
There are a number of risk factors which can promote hypothermia setting in. For example, the younger you are, especially children, have a higher risk because they lose heat faster than adults do. Other risk factors include:
- Alcohol and drug use increase your risk of hypothermia because they cloud your judgment to get inside or stay warm. This is especially true for alcohol because it makes your body feel warm, however it expands vessels which actually creates more heat loss from your skin.
- Some medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, diabetes and arthritis affect your body’s ability to regulate its own temperature. Certain medications have the same effect on the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Make sure to be aware of this and speak to your doctor.
- The older you are, the harder it is on your body to regulate temperature and to sense cold temperatures.
The number one way to prevent hypothermia is to stay as warm as possible. Put on layers when you go outside, especially in below freezing temperatures, and stay as dry as possible. Remember to follow the acronym COLD:
- Cover and keep clean. Clean skin helps your body regulate temperatures normally. Clean clothes, especially socks keep your feet healthy and your entire body warm. Cover your hands with mittens and your face with masks.
- Overexertion- Avoid overheating while out, like when playing a sport and begin to sweat a lot. The wetter you are, then the insulation of your clothes lowers, and the sweat cools your body.
- Layers- Wear loose layers. This provides more insulation than one thick layer of clothing, this happens because air gets trapped between layers.
- Dry- Stay dry. If your clothes get wet when you are out, then try to get back in and remove the wet clothes as soon as possible.
If you or someone you know has symptoms of hypothermia, make sure to get them to a warm dry place as soon as possible and remove wet clothing. Cover their body with warm blankets and provide skin to skin contact is possible to transfer heat. Do not rub or massage the person, because it can cause cardiac arrest. If they are awake and able, get warm drinks in their system, and last but not least call 911.
Avoid hypothermia this winter by being cautious of how cold it is and how long you are out. If you have to be out because of a job, or want to play with your kids or friends, then bundle up. Hypothermia is a serious condition that can lead to death, so make sure to get inside when you can and warm up your body.