During winter, kids love to play out in the snow. This situation leaves them vulnerable to the harsh environment that winter brings. One of the most dangerous/fatal incidents that can happen is catching hypothermia.
Aside from kids playing outside during winter, this can also happen to anyone at any given time. What if your car got stuck in a very isolated road? Would you have enough knowledge about hypothermia to determine and possibly treat somebody who is suffering from it? Well, knowing is always the first part of the battle.
To better understand what hypothermia is, let’s quickly discuss the basics. Hypothermia is the condition in which the core temperature of one’s body decreases below thirty five degrees Celsius, that’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hypothermia has essentially two main causes:
- Exposure to extreme cold
- Decreased heat production/Increased heat loss
They have classified hypothermia based on the body’s core temperature.
- Stage 1 is somewhat mild. The symptom is shivering but you are awake and conscious in this stage of hypothermia. Your core temperature will drop to 32 – 35 degrees Celsius in this stage or 90-95 Fahrenheit.
- Stage 2 is moderate. In this stage, you will be able to feel the effects of the loss of body heat. You will shiver and feel drowsy at this stage. Body temp will drop to 28 – 32 degrees Celsius or 82-90 Fahrenheit.
- Stage 3 is severe. When the body temperature drops to 28 – 28 degrees Celsius or 82-90 Fahrenheit, a person will become unconscious and stop shivering. This is a very dangerous situation and possibly fatal when left untreated.
- Stage 4 is profound. At this point you body temperature drops to less than 20 degrees Celsius or 68 Fahrenheit. In this stage all vital signs are lost and there is a high possibility of death.
This type of classification is best for emergency situations like when a child falls into a frozen lake or river. This classification system is called the Swiss Staging System, this divides hypothermia based on the symptoms which is preferred when it is not possible to determine an accurate core temperature.
Examples of extreme cold related injuries:
- Chilblains – These are superficial ulcers of the skin that occur when a predisposed individual is repeatedly exposed to extreme cold.
- Frostbite – Is the freezing and destruction of tissue.
- Frostnip – Is a superficial cooling of tissues without cellular destruction.
- Trench foot or immersion foot – This is caused by repetitive exposure to water at non-freezing temperatures.
These are the basics of hypothermia. We now have an idea of what hypothermia is and some if its effects.
Avoiding hypothermia is very simple by following some steps you should be able to easily avoid hypothermia. When in areas that is very cold, one should dress appropriately. Dress warmly and if possible dress in multiple layers.
3 Basic layers:
- Base layer
- Insulating layer
- Outer layer
A tip on base layers though, the base layer should be anything but cotton. Make sure that the outer layer is waterproof.
As mentioned before, one should be dressed appropriately. When exposed to cold weather, one should wear a hat, neck scarf, gloves and heavy pants to protect large vessels. Just wear anything that can help increase your body temperature. It is also advised that when going out, especially during winter one should bring an emergency blanket.
Being cold and getting hypothermia is a very different story. Here is a list of symptoms that can help you determine whether a person has hypothermia or not.
- Loss of coordination
- Slurring of speech or mumbling
- Difficulty forming thoughts
- Lack of energy
- Shallow breaths
Hypothermia happens gradually and most of the time those who are affected do not realize that they are suffering from hypothermia and that they are in a life threatening situation.
Treating someone suffering from hypothermia is pretty basic. If you do not have the luxury of calling 911, and you realize that someone has developed hypothermia that person must be warmed up as soon as possible. Get them to a shelter and cover them up with warm blankets to increase body temperature. When that person’s clothes are wet you should remove the clothes and if the situation calls for it, you can also strip down naked and share your body heat with that person under a warm blanket. Warm beverages can also help a person that is suffering from hypothermia. Just be careful that you do not give them alcohol as this can further complicate hypothermia.
Place warming packs on the chest and groin area but do not place the packs on the extremities as cold blood might rush to the heart. If possible avoid rubbing a person’s body while suffering hypothermia. They must be handled gently because their heart at this point may be struggling. Applying a heat source directly to the body may also do more damage than help. Avoid this as much as possible.
Hope you learned something new today. Have a wonderful day and enjoy!