Welcome to extreme weather! Most of us in the northeast are unaware of many of the serious consequences of the extreme cold, such as hypothermia and frostbite. Negative health effects are exacerbated with gripping winds and below freezing temperatures, and can easily cause hypothermia and/or frostbite quicker than usual. Prolonged exposure such as shoveling or plowing should be avoided during these conditions when at all possible.
What is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia occurs when the body begins to lose more heat than it can produce. Lengthy exposure uses up your bodies stored energy, lowering your body temperature even more. Perfect recipe for “hypothermia”.
The onset of hypothermia is typically gradual and people are often unaware that they require emergency medical treatment. One reason for this is that not just physical but mental capabilities can progressively diminish. Your brain is functioning at a sub-par level. Therefore the key to successfully treating hypothermia is early recognition of its’ symptoms.
There are varying degrees of hypothermia.
Symptoms of mild to moderate hypothermia may include:
- Slurred speech
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Loss of dexterity in the fingers
- Slowing in the response mechanism
Severe cases of hypothermia (i.e. when body temperature drops below 28C / 82F) exhibit the following additional symptoms:
- Shallow or no breathing.
- Weak or irregular pulse.
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle rigidity
- Increasingly pale skin color.
- Progressive loss of consciousness
When treating hypothermia the main objective is to prevent further heat loss and slowly rewarm the patient. Note that severe hypothermia is a potentially fatal medical condition. In such cases, every possible effort should be made to contact an emergency response team. To treat someone with hypothermia take the following steps:
- Find the nearest shelter or warm space.
- Remove wet clothing.
- Put on something warm and dry.
- If you are outdoors and have a sleeping bag, get into it, and if there are people that are not suffering symptoms, have them get into the bag with the victim to share your body heat. Be sure to lay out a sleeping mat first in order to insure sufficient insulation from the ground.
- Eat high-energy snacks such as chocolate.
- Drink warm fluids. Avoid coffee and alcohol which dehydrate and accelerate heat loss
- Focus on rewarming the centre of the body – groin, stomach, chest, neck and head. Warm (not hot) compresses are ideal. DO NOT attempt to rewarm the limbs as this will push cold blood back towards the lungs, heart and brain.
- It is common for people suffering from severe hypothermia to also have frostbite. DO NOT rub frostbitten areas, as this can severely damage the affected tissues.
- If the victim’s breathing has either stopped or appears threateningly slow or weak, begin CPR immediately.
- If breathing is faltering and you cannot get the persons body temperature up, or if the person has become unconscious, Call 911 immediately.
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from hypothermia and have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 860-357-6899.