Do you know what will happen when your body loses more heat than it can produce and is an emergency condition? Read below to know more about it.
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body temperatures are abnormally low. It is dangerous because it affects the brain making the person unable to think clearly. The person will not know what is happening and will not be able to do anything about it. According to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are a number of people dying from this condition. Learn more about hypothermia, its signs and symptoms, and how to deal with it in the following article.
Hypothermia is an abnormal and dangerous fall in the body temperatures below the normal levels. Usually, the stable body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius. And when the environment is too cold or if the body cannot produce sufficient heat to counter the lost heat, the core temperatures can eventually drop, resulting in a condition called hypothermia.
Hypothalamus is the part of the brain that manages and controls body temperatures. When the hypothalamus notices a change in the body temperature, it initiates the body to produce more heat, and if the environment gets colder, then the body starts to shiver, which increases the muscle activity generating more heat. So when heat is lost more quickly than it can make, the core temperature drops.
When the body temperature drops, the body tries to stop the blood flow to the skin so that the amount of heat loss is reduced. Rather it directs the blood flow to the vital organs like the heart, brain, and kidneys. As the brain and heart are very sensitive to low temperatures, the electrical activity starts to slow down, resulting in organ failure.
Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to cold weather conditions or cold water. When exposed to cold, the body loses heat quicker than it can produce it. And being exposed to cold weather conditions for prolonged periods of time can result in hypothermia.
The other conditions that can contribute to hypothermia are:
Staying outdoors in the cold for too long.
Wearing wet clothes for prolonged periods of time.
Living in an environment that is too cold or in a house.
There are three different stages through which hypothermia progresses. They are:
Mild hypothermia is characterized by:
High blood pressure.
Lack of coordination.
Irregular and fast heart rate and breathing.
Moderate hypothermia is characterized by:
Lower levels of consciousness.
Slow heart rate.
Decrease in the reflexes.
Severe hypothermia is characterized by:
Lack of consciousness.
The people who are at an increased risk of developing hypothermia are:
Children who sleep in cold environments.
Elderly people who do not have adequate food, clothes, or heat.
People who stay long outdoors like the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.
People who consume illicit drugs or excessive alcohol.
The most commonly experienced symptoms of hypothermia are different in the case of adults and for children:
Fatigue or feeling very tired.
Loss of memory.
Skin can be bright red.
Usually, people with hypothermia may not be aware of their condition as confusion is associated with hypothermia. So it prevents self-awareness.
Hypothermia is typically diagnosed with the symptoms. The doctor also determines the body temperature using a thermometer. The thermometer records and detects the low core body temperature, and the diagnosis is confirmed.
Hypothermia is an emergency condition, so once the symptoms are noticed, immediate medical consultation is needed. And if the patient is in a situation where they cannot get immediate medical help, follow these ways:
1) Take the patient to a warm room or warm shelter.
2) If the patient is wearing any wet clothes, remove them immediately.
3) Provide them with some warm drinks that can help them to increase their body temperatures. Avoid giving alcoholic drinks. And do not give beverages to the patient if he or she is unconscious.
4) Try to warm the person’s body by using thick clothes or a blanket.
5) Once the person is feeling better and body temperature has increased, then try to keep the person warm and dry.
6) Try to get medical help as soon as possible.
In severe cases of hypothermia where the patient is totally unconscious and may not seem to be breathing or if the patient does not seem to have a pulse, then the patient needs to be handled gently, and emergency medical attention should be provided.
Try to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) until the person responds or medical aid is made available.
Based on the severity and intensity of hypothermia, any of the following treatment options will be performed:
Warm intravenous fluids.
This method is done in patients with mild hypothermia. The patient is just covered with warm heated blankets and given warm drinks.
Blood is withdrawn from the body and warmed, and then again recirculated into the body by using a hemodialysis machine or a heart bypass machine.
Warm Intravenous Fluids:
A warm intravenous solution of salt water is infused into the vein to warm the blood.
Humidified oxygen is administered using a mask or through a nasal tube to warm the airways, which will gradually increase the body temperature.
Hypothermia can be prevented in the following ways:
When Working Outdoor For Prolonged Period of Time:
1) Check for the weather conditions beforehand and get prepared accordingly.
2) Try multiple layers of clothing or clothes that have multiple layers. If the innermost layers are made of wool or silk, it can give better protection.
3) Wear a hat or woolen scarf on the head.
4) Try to take a sufficient amount of calories so when there is additional fat under the skin, then it can provide protection during the cold weather conditions.
5) Once you start to experience any of the signs or symptoms of hypothermia, try to move to a warmer place immediately and try to keep yourself warm. Take some warm drinks that can increase your body temperature.
When At Home:
You can prevent hypothermia when you are at home by following these ways:
Try to heat the room by using a room heater.
Wear thick and warm clothes.
Try to insulate your home by making modifications and improvements in the building or laying some thick rugs or towels on the floor.
If you are living alone, ask someone to check on you to see if you are fine.
People should keep a winter survival kit in the car to protect themselves from hypothermia. The winter survival kit should contain the following:
First aid kit.
Try to keep the vehicle running for 10 minutes every hour and ensure that the snow does not cover the exhaust pipe.
Some of the complications of hypothermia are:
Death of the tissues due to interrupted blood flow results in gangrene.
Hypothermia is an emergency and dangerous condition that can gradually affect the patient’s self-awareness. So immediate medical attention and help are needed once the signs and symptoms of hypothermia are noticed.
Last reviewed at:
03 Mar 2022 - 6 min read
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