Tips and Hints

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Hypothermia can happen for many reasons.  Long exposure to cold temperatures, not wearing the proper clothing that provides enough insulation to prevent heat loss and being immerged in cold, icy waters, even for a few minutes, could end up being fatal.

Symptoms of hypothermia can start once your body temperature drops and you start to slow down.  Apart from the shivering and the coldness that you start to feel, initially the most affected are your mental functions.  A specific danger of getting hypothermia is that it develops gradually; therefore, effects of thinking and reasoning may go unnoticed.  Signs of hunger and nausea will be replaced with apathy as your core body temperature drops.  Once this happens, other signs like confusion, slurred speech, lethargy, loss of consciousness then coma will follow.  A person affected by hypothermia will want to lie down and fall asleep which can lead to death.

The decrease in your brain functions happen in direct relation in the decrease of your body temperature, therefore, the colder you become the less your brains functions properly.  Brain function stops when your core temperature drops to 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) 

Treatment for someone suffering from hypothermia should begin as soon as the person has been found or starts showing signs.  First thing to do is to remove the person from the cold elements and take them to a warm shelter.  Any wet clothing should be removed and replaced with warm, dry clothing and or blankets and the person's head should be covered.  9-1-1 should be called as soon as possible.  Monitor the person's breathing, if it becomes dangerously slow or stops administrate CPR.  Minimize any rough handling or jerking of the patient since this could cause an irritable heart to develop electrical abnormalities.  Try applying warm compresses to the neck, chest and groin areas.  Do NOT use hot water because there could be frostbite and direct heat should be avoided.  Warm blankets and body to body contact is your best form of first aid.

Most cases of hypothermia can be prevented with good planning and good judgment, wearing the appropriate clothing for the weather conditions and being prepared for the worst when enjoying outdoor activities.  You should also avoid drinking alcohol.  Alcohol can impair your judgment and dilate your blood vessels near the skin and can decrease your efficiency of the shivering mechanism which can both decrease your body's ability to compensate for  the cold exposure.

So let's think safe and be safe when enjoying your outdoor activities.