First aid: Hypothermia
Under most conditions your body maintains a healthy temperature. However, when exposed to cold temperatures, especially with a high wind chill factor and high humidity, or to a cool, damp environment for prolonged periods, your body's control mechanisms may fail to keep your body temperature normal. When more heat is lost than your body can generate, hypothermia, defined as an internal body temperature less than 95 F (35 C), can result.
Wet or inadequate clothing, falling into cold water and even not covering your head during cold weather can increase your chances of hypothermia.
Signs and symptoms include:
Signs and symptoms usually develop slowly. People with hypothermia typically experience gradual loss of mental acuity and physical ability, so they may be unaware that they need emergency medical treatment.
Older adults, infants, young children and people who are very lean are at particular risk. Other people at higher risk of hypothermia include those whose judgment may be impaired by mental illness or Alzheimer's disease and people who are intoxicated, homeless or caught in cold weather because their vehicles have broken down. Other conditions that may predispose people to hypothermia are malnutrition, cardiovascular disease and an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
To care for someone with hypothermia:
Last Updated: 2010-01-12
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