Identifying and Treating Hypothermia

Identifying and Treating HypothermiaDuring this time of year a lot of people are affected by hypothermia. Many of them have no idea what hypothermia really is or what its symptoms are. When people feel cold they power through as they think it’s normal and soon enough things get worse.

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat more rapidly that it can replace it. People falsely assume that it can only occur during extreme cold weather. Your body functions such as blood flow and heart beat are affected when you are exposed to cold, but you need to figure out when your organs are in real danger.  The human body is designed to operate best at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When it goes under 95 degrees F, that’s when you enter hypothermia territory.

Just like any other medical conditions, one should learn that there are several symptoms of hypothermia. These distinct signs can tell you what you are dealing with and how critical the situation is.

Levels of hypothermia:

Level 1:

During this stage, you will notice some shivering and hypotension. Although these are normal reactions of your body being exposed to cold for extended periods of time, you need to pay attention to how your body acts if you don’t find proper shelter.

Level 2:

During this stage, body shivering intensifies and paleness of the skin can be observed. Body extremities are starting to get affected and bluing of lips, ears, fingers and toes are common signs. Some patients will display confusion. Others will lose their coordination and agility although they seem to be alert and in control at first.

Level 3:

During this stage, things will become critical. You need to act in order to save your life (asking for professional medical assistance is required). The patient will show difficulty in speaking and thinking and low blood pressure is common during this level of hypothermia. This is the stage when slowed breathing becomes a problem and the patient acts irrational. Strangely enough, a lot of people start to strip off their clothes. They believe that they feel overheated and this is the critical point. As they lose more heat, death occurs shortly after. During this stage is very difficult if not impossible to treat yourself and you require external help.

Treating hypothermia

Although most people say that treating hypothermia and other cold-related health emergencies is a simple task, most of the time the environment you are in dictates the course of action. It may seem like a no brainer to get out of the elements as quickly as possible, but if you are stranded things can get complicated. You will need to find a shelter or build one as soon as possible. The next step would be to make the right type of fire for your environment and shelter design.

If you’re wet, you have to get dry as fast as possible. Bundle up under clothes or blankets without direct contact with the ground. Sharing body heat with other persons is also indicated and you need to consume warm, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks. Applying hot water bottles on your body during moderate cases of hypothermia will greatly increase your chances of recuperation. Severe cases require warm fluids to be administrated to the patient intravenously.


Related reading: How to start a fire when the odds are against you


Preventing hypothermia

Rather than treating hypothermia one should learn how to prevent it. To learn how to make everything possible to assure safe travel during the cold season. The most important things to keep in mind is that one needs to stay warm, dry and hydrated in order to keep hypothermia at bay. Wear the proper clothing and use multiple layers, your shoes or boots should also be designed to withstand the elements.

An important aspect to consider is that one needs to maintain body temperature while traveling during the cold season. Keep in mind that your body burns more calories faster when the climate is colder. You need to keep your energy levels high. Remember to stay hydrated and eat foods with a high caloric intake. Make sure you add or remove layers of clothing to maintain a proper body temperature. Sweating in cold environments should be avoided at any cost. There is a widespread myth about alcohol being a good warming agent for cold environments, but consuming alcohol is not recommended when symptoms of hypothermia are experienced. Alcohol dehydrates your body as it is faster absorbed than other liquids. Your body will struggle to process this foreign substance using water to process it. It will deplete water from your body and you should avoid it at all costs.

Hypothermia settles in rapidly in a few minutes or hours, unless something is done and the causing factor isn’t eliminated. In its incipient stages hypothermia doesn’t require complex medical maneuvers. Once the symptoms are properly identified, the patient can saved without professional assistance.

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