What is it: Hypothermia is a dangerous drop in body temperature that occurs from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures while outdoors or even at home. It happens when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Normal body temperature should be around 98.6°F (37°C). Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95°F (35°C). This can happen from cold weather, wind, water, or rain.
Symptoms: Hypothermia requires emergency medical attention as it can cause death if not treated right away, so it’s important to know the symptoms. Symptoms typically begin gradually, and vary depending upon the severity of the condition. Mild hypothermia can cause shivering or slowed speech whereas severe hypothermia can result in a loss of consciousness or cause the victim to enter into a coma.
Early Warning Signs: Shivering, slow breathing, drowsiness and a slow pulse are common early symptoms. Care should be taken to reduce loss of body temperature before symptoms increase in severity.
Who is at Risk: Children and the elderly are more susceptible to hypothermia due to an inability to regulate body temperature efficiently. Those suffering from mental illness or dementia may not understand the risk of cold weather and may fail to dress appropriately. Certain medicines may also diminish the body’s ability to withstand cold temperatures.
Prevention: Loss of body heat can be prevented by reducing exposure to cold weather. Dress appropriately during frigid weather conditions and be sure that you are in good physical condition before participating in any cold-weather activities. Be sure to keep warm at home, setting your thermostat appropriately. Check with your doctor to find out if any medications you are currently taking may increase your risk of hypothermia.