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Hypothermia (Low Body Temperature) Is A Medical Emergency: Warning Signs To Watch For

If you are exposed to very cold temperature for a long time, your body temperature may drop to a dangerous level and lead to Hypothermia.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : December 21, 2022 12:54 PM IST

Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia, a condition that occurs when the body's temperature falls below 35 C (95 F). Normal body temperature is around 37C (98.6 F). Your body loses heat faster than it's produced when you're exposed to very cold temperature for a long time, resulting in dangerous drop in body temperature. It may also occur from dipping in cold water or getting wet in the rain. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and needs immediate medical attention. Read on to know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia.

Signs of symptoms of hypothermia

According to US CDC, the signs and symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion or feeling very tired, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.

Babies sleeping in cold bedrooms are at high risk of hypothermia. Look out for warning symptoms such as bright red, cold skin and very low energy.

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What to do if you notice any of signs of hypothermia?

If you notice any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms of hypothermia, check the person's temperature. If it is below 35 C or 95 F, seek medical help right away. Before the medical team arrives, you can help warm the person up. The CDC says, "Don't wait take action" and to warm the person up, it advises to:

  • Take the victim into a warm room as soon as possible
  • Remove wet clothing the person is wearing
  • Try to warm up the center of the victim's body including chest, neck, head, and groin. An electric blanket, if available, can rally help but you can also use layers of blankets and include skin-to-skin contact.
  • Giving the person some warm drinks can help increase his/her body temperature, but if the person is unconscious, do not give beverages and avoid giving alcoholic drinks.
  • Keep warming the person by wrapping his body in a warm blanket before he/she gets proper medical attention.

In severe cases, a person experiencing hypothermia may become unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or breathing. In such case, the victim should be handled gently, and try to get emergency assistance as the earliest, the CDC says.

If the hypothermia victim appears dead, the agency advises performing CPR until the person responds or medical team arrives.

Consequences of untreated hypothermia

The drop in body temperature can interrupt normal functioning of the heart, nervous system and other organs. Untreated hypothermia can even cause complete failure of the heart and respiratory system and lead to death.

Who are at high risk of hypothermia?

Often victims of hypothermia are older people, young children, people with a mental illness like dementia, people who are addicted to alcohol and drug use, and those with certain medical conditions that affect the body's ability to regulate body temperature such as hypothyroidism, anorexia nervosa, diabetes, stroke, severe arthritis, Parkinson's disease, trauma, and spinal cord injuries. Some drugs can also affect the body's ability to regulate its temperature and increase risk of hypothermia. These include certain antidepressants, antipsychotics, narcotic pain medications and sedatives.

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