What is hypothermia?

When spending time outside in the cold, it is important to protect your body against hypothermia. Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures. Our bodies lose heat fast and lengthy exposure to the cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy which could lead to a lower body temperature.

A low body temperature and hypothermia can affect the brain, making it difficult to think clearly or to move. This makes hypothermia especially dangerous because a person may not know that it is actually happening.

Symptoms of hypothermia include: 

  • Shivering 
  • Confusion 
  • Exhaustion, feeling tired 
  • Memory loss  
  • Difficulty speaking 
  • Stiff muscles

In babies, hypothermia may present as bright red, cold skin and very low energy.

Hypothermia is very serious. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, take your temperature. If it is below 96 degrees F, seek medical attention immediately.

If you are unable to get medical help, there are a few things that you can do to help yourself or a person who may be hypothermic.

  • Move the person into a warm room or shelter
  • Remove any wet clothing
  • Warm the center of the person’s body – the chest, neck, head, and groin with blankets, skin-to-skin contact. 
  • Warm drinks can help increase body temperatures. (non-alcoholic)
  • Once the body temperature has increased, keep the person, including the head, wrapped in dry blankets or clothes. 
  • Seek medical attention when able to do so.

Hypothermia can be prevented by dressing in warm, layered clothing, including a hat and mittens. Stay dry. If you do get wet, go indoors or look for shelter to dry off. Health officials advise not to ignore shivering. It is often the first sign that your body is losing heat. Eat hot, nutritious food and drink a few times a day, and avoid alcohol.