Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature.
Warnings signs of hypothermia:
- Adults: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech drowsiness
- Infants: bright red, cold skin, very low energyIf you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency — get medical attention immediately.
A body temperature that’s too low can affect the brain, which makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because the victim may not know it is happening. Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at merely cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or submersion in cold water.
Hypothermia is most likely to begin in extremities like your hands and feet, so keeping your toes warm is important. Whether you’re walking to work or just around the block, make sure to wear sturdy, insulated shoes that will help prevent slips on slick surfaces and keep your feet dry.
Tips to Avoid Hypothermia
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
- If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
- Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
- Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.