What You Need to Know About Hypothermia

Jerry Walch By Jerry Walch, 31st Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1eari0z3/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Outdoor>Survival Skills

At seventy years young, I still love winter activities like snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, camping, and hunting and so on. My doctors tell me that I’m in excellent health, but they also tell me that at my age I have to be more careful of things like hypothermia. Hypothermia is a state where the human body loses too much heat to maintain consciousness and life.

Shivering is a Good Thing

A drop in two degrees may not seem like such a big deal to you, but it is for your body. A decrease in body temperature from the normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to 96 degrees Fahrenheit can put the body at risk of hypothermia. We all hate shivering out in the cold, but shivering really is a good thing. Shivering is one of the ways the human body has to produce more heat when it becomes cold. There are other ways we can become aware that someone is on the verge of hypothermia. Watch out for the four “umbles.” Stumbling and fumbling, the beginning of the loss of coordination is two of the first bodily signs of hypothermia. Mumbling and grumbling, the loss of verbal fluidity, are two more signs of on setting hypothermia.
Some other symptoms are:

  • Mental confusion or sleepiness
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Shallow breathing
  • Decrease in blood pressure and pulse rate
  • A great deal of shivering or no shivering at all because stiffness of the extremities prevents shivering

Slowed reaction time
Now that you know what the symptoms of hypothermia are, you need to know what will put you at risk of hypothermia.

Factors That Increase Risk of Hypothermia.

  • Staying dry equates to staying alive. It is a proven scientific fact that a wet body loses its heat 25 times faster than a dry one. If you fall into the water or even become excessively sweaty, dry yourself off as quickly as possible.
  • Poor diet and insufficient body fat places you at risk of hypothermia. Body fat helps prevent hypothermia by keeping the body’s heat inside the body. It’s extremely important to eat properly to maintain a healthy body weight that includes the proper amounts of body fat.
  • Increased age places you more at risk. As we become older, it becomes harder and harder to recognize when we are becoming dangerously cold. As we age our bodies also have more difficulty generating enough heat on its own to warm us back up.
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes and Parkinson, hypothyroidism, arthritis and some skin disorders can make it more difficult for the body to generate and maintain the heat it needs. Some medications, such as high blood pressure medication can increase your risk of hypothermia.
  • Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can increase your risk of hypothermia. Alcohol gives you a false sense of warmth, as does drinking coffee and tea when it gets colder outside. Smoking all affects your risk to hypothermia by affecting blood circulation.
  • Saving a few pennies on your utilities can lead to hypothermia. Set your thermostat at 68 or 70 degrees. Living in a house that is constantly colder than 68 degrees can lead to the onset of hypothermia.

Treating Hypothermia

If you notice hypothermia setting in or notice someone else about to suffer the effects of hypothermia, here are some things that you can do.

  • Make sure that your body or the body of the person suffering from impending hypothermia is completely dry.
  • Wrap the person’s body in multiple sleeping bags or wool blankets. The first objective in treating a person suffering from hypothermia is to stop further loss of body heat. Once the heat loss has been stopped, then you can begin rewarming the person’s body. Make sure the person urinates before wrapping him or her up because the body will use more heat energy maintaining the heat of a full bladder stealing heat from other vital body organs.
  • Make the person drink warm sugar water instead of feeding them hot solid foods. The stomach of someone suffering from hypothermia has a stomach that cannot process solid foods.
  • Reheat the body by applying hot water bottles, heat packs or warm compresses to the following areas—the neck, armpits and groin areas. A large amount of blood passes through these areas and the body will warm up quicker and more safely if you warm these areas first.
  • The best treatment is to prevent hypothermia from starting in the first place.

Tags

Hypothermia, Outdoors, Preventing Hypothermia, Symptoms Of Hypothermia, Treating Hypothermia, Winter Activities

Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 71 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

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Comments

author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Not a pleasant thing to experience. This is good information for anyone in a cold climate and especially those who go hunting, ice fishing, and so forth.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you Mark for moderating this article and for the comments.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Jerry, this is excellent advice for those of us who live in cold areas such as Upstate New York. Thanks for sharing such important information. It could save somebody's life.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you Connie for reading and commenting. My knowledge comes from my training in mountain SAR (serach and rescue). At my age, I'm on standby status and will not be called out unless it's a real emergency and they can't get anyone else to go out. I was taken off active status eighteen months ago.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Great article. A lot of information that could come in handy for many very soon.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you Phyl.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
5th Nov 2013 (#)

Very useful tips and post!

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