Hypothermia: Everything About It
What Is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia refers to a condition when a body loses heat faster than it produces, causing a seriously low body temperature.
Average body temperature lies somewhere around 37 °C, and hypothermia occurs when the temperature falls below 35 °C.
As the body temperature drops, it leads to poor functioning of the heart, nervous system, and other organs. Hypothermia is a critical condition that can cause the utter failure of your heart and respiratory system, and ultimately death.
Hypothermia can occur due to exposure to extreme cold weather or submersion in cold water. The initial treatment for the condition includes various techniques to bring the body temperature back to normal.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypothermia?
Mild Hypothermia (36-35 °C)
- Shivering, that is not under deliberate control
- Incapability to perform complex motor activities except walking and talking
- Constriction of toes, fingers, etc.
Moderate Hypothermia(35-33 °C)
- Intense shivering
- Slurred speech
- Decreased consciousness
- Loss of good motor coordination, especially in hands because of restricted blood flow
Severe Hypothermia(<33-30 °C)
- Slow, weak or absent breathing and pulse rate
- Inflated pupils
- Muscle rigidity, it happens due to reduced blood flow in the peripherals and the accumulation of carbon dioxide and lactic acid in the muscles.
- Patient can lose consciousness and fall on the ground
- Skin turning pale
- At 32 °C, the body makes attempts to go on a hibernation state. Hibernation refers to a deep sleep that assists one to survive on chilly winters without eating much.
- When the body temperature further declines and reaches about 30 °C, it reaches the condition of a metallic icebox. In this state, the patient appears to be dead but is alive.
Immediate medical assistance is required, or else the breathing becomes irregular and superficial. The consciousness level will also continue to fall, raising the risk of cardiac arrhythmias.
What Causes Hypothermia?
One of the primary causes for hypothermia is ‘cold weather’. When your body is exposed to intense cold weather conditions, it tends to lose more heat than it produces. Staying in cold water for a very long period can also cause similar symptoms.
Hypothermia can also occur on entering the air condition room soon after being outdoors as the body’s tendency to lose heat increases suddenly.
Who Is At Risk For Hypothermia?
Following are some of the risk factors for hypothermia:
1. Older Age: As you age. Your body’s capability to sense and adjust body temperature decreases. Some of the older adults cannot even convey that they are feeling cold or move to a warm region.
2. Very Young Age: Studies suggest that children generally lose body heat faster than that of adults. They are so excited to enjoy the feel of winters that they disregard wearing warm clothes and fall ill.
3. Excessive Use Of Alcohol Or Drug: People have a myth that consuming alcohol in winters is good. But the truth is, you may have a feeling of warmth from inside, but it expands your blood vessels and makes the surface of the skin lose heat fast.
The use of alcohol and drugs can also influence your decision to wear warm clothes. As a result, when an intoxicated person steps out of his home in cold weather, he/she has an elevated risk of developing hypothermia.
4. Exhaustion: When you are excessively tired, your body becomes incapable of withstanding cold temperatures.
5. Medical Conditions: Following medical conditions can affect your body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
- Poor nutrition
- Severe arthritis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Spinal cord injuries
6. Certain Medications: Some of the medications can also negatively impact your body’s ability to regulate temperature. Some examples are listed below:
- Narcotic pain medications
How Can You Prevent Hypothermia?
Staying Warm In Chilly Winters
Following things will help keep your body warm in chilly winters:
- Wrap Up: Make sure you wear multiple layers of clothing. Also, don’t overlook the importance of gloves, hats, and scarves. Clothes manufactured out of wool, cotton, fleecy materials are believed to be the warmest.
When you are at home, keep your feet cozy with warm socks and slippers.
- Stay Dry: Try to keep yourself dry at any cost. Slip out of wet clothing as early as possible. Snow can quickly get into your mittens and boots. Ensure that your hands and feet are dry at all times.
- Overexertion: Abstain yourself from doing activities that make you shed a lot of sweat. The amalgamation of cold weather and sweat can make your body lose heat faster than usual.
Various complications can result from alcohol consumption. Avoid alcohol in the following conditions:
- If you’re bloating
- Before you go to bed in cold weather
- If you’re stepping out of your home in cold weather
Keep Children Protected
If you have a child at home, you must take extra precautions for your child. Consider the following tips:
- Wrap your children in one more layer of warm clothing than you wear.
- Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia. So, bring your child inside the home if he/she is trembling.
- Ensure your babies are not sleeping in a cold room.
Winter Car Safety
- Stay Home: Don’t go out unless it's necessary. Maybe you can drive well in cold weather or snowy conditions, but try not to take unnecessary risks.
- Drive Slowly: Always keep your speed slow while driving to avoid the risk of traction.
- Accelerate And Decelerate Slowly: In snowy weather conditions, it will take longer to increase or decrease the speed of your vehicle. So, accelerate and decelerate very slowly, or your car can skid.
- Clear The Exhaust Pipe: Make sure the exhaust pipe of your vehicle is never clogged up with snow. When the exhaust pipe is filled up with snow, it causes carbon monoxide to drain into the passenger compartment of your car while the engine is running.
- Stay Warm: Utilize everything kept in your vehicle that can help keep your body warm.
Cold Water Safety
Water that is colder than average body temperature can lead to heat loss. If you accidentally fall in cold water submersion, consider the following tips:
- Wear A Life Jacket: If you’re planning to ride a watercraft, make sure you wear a life jacket. It will help you stay alive longer in water without much energy loss. You can also attach a whistle to your life jacket, and blow it whenever you’re stuck in some critical conditions.
Try to get out of water whenever you get a chance, by grabbing the floating objects or other similar measures.
- Seek For Safety Measures: Don’t try to swim when you are away from safety measures like a boat, another person, or a life jacket. It is recommended because swimming can drain your entire energy, thereby decreasing your survival time in the water.
- Cluster With Others: If you’ve fallen in water with a group of people, all you can do is try to keep each other warm by forming a closed circle.
How Is Hypothermia Diagnosed?
The doctor can easily detect hypothermia based on the symptoms and conditions in which you have fallen ill. In some cases, the doctor does a blood test to confirm the presence and severity of the disease.
But in older adults and those with mild symptoms of hypothermia, the diagnosis is not very precise.
How Is Hypothermia Treated?
If you suspect someone with hypothermia, seek immediate medical assistance. You should also start providing first-aid to normalize the condition of the person.
1. Be Gentle: Handle the person very gently, and limit the movements to only which is essential. Don’t rub or massage vigorously as jarring shifts can lead to cardiac arrest.
2. Try To Pull The Person Out Of Cold: If possible, try to move the person into a dry and warm atmosphere. If it is not possible, protect him/her from cold weather as much as possible.
3. Remove Wet Clothing: If the person is in wet clothing, make sure to remove it.
4. Cover The Person With Warm Blankets: Use warm blankets to cover the person entirely; only the face should remain exposed.
5. Check Pulse Rate: Severe hypothermia often leaves a person unconscious with no apparent signs of breathing or pulse. Check if the person’s breath has halted or seems to be extremely slow, and give CPR if required. If CPR is done correctly, it can double or even triple the chances of survival. Following are the seven essential CPR steps that everyone should know:
- Place your hands midway the chest of the person
- Interlock your fingers
- Provide chest compressions
- Open the airway
- Provide rescue breaths
- Watch chest fall
- Repeat chest compressions and rescue breaths
6. Offer Warm Beverages: If the person can swallow, provide a sweet, warm, non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic drink to help warm the body.
7. Avoid Exposure To Direct Heat: Don’t use a heating pad, warm water, etc. as direct heat can worsen the condition of the person. It encourages abnormal breathing that can cause breathing to halt.
- Passive Rewarming: Passive rewarming may be enough to treat a person with mild hypothermia. The person is moved to a warm, dry place and provided with adequate insulation.
The core temperature of the body may rise gradually with passive rewarming; this is the most significant disadvantage of the process.
- Blood Rewarming: In this process, a small sample of blood is taken, warmed up, and then recirculated in the body. One of the most popular methods used for blood rewarming is with a hemodialysis machine. In some cases, the doctor may also utilize a heart bypass machine to provide adequate assistance.
- Airway Rewarming: The doctor utilizes humidified oxygen handled with a nasal tube or a mask to provide warmth to the airways and raise the core body temperature.
- Irrigation: The doctor uses a warm saltwater solution to warm certain regions of the body, such as pleura or the peritoneal cavity. Catheters are used to introduce warm liquid to particular areas.
- Warm Intravenous Fluids: A warm saltwater is inserted into the patient’s body intravenously to make the blood warm.
What Complications Can Arise With Hypothermia?
Hypothermia can provide you with some of the following complications:
- Cardiac arrhythmias at a temperature below 30-32°C
- Pulmonary edema
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Bleeding diathesis
- Bladder atony
Nutrition And Supplements
Consider the following tips and stay healthy even in cold weather conditions:
1. Have more soups made with fresh veggies
2. Use the following species while preparing your food:
3. Drink plenty of water (about 6-8 glasses daily). Staying hydrated helps lessen the issue from excessive cold exposure.
4. Do some sort of physical activity daily for about 30 minutes.
5. Include the following foods in your diet as they are a great source of antioxidants:
- Bell peppers
6. Avoid intake of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and other stimulants
Utilize the following herbs as it can strengthen your immune system and ward off the possibility for hypothermia:
- Panax Ginseng
- Green Tea
- Herbal Teas
- Carbo vegetabilis
- Cuprum Metallicum
Tags: Hypothermia treatment, Hypothermia symptoms, Hypothermia stages