Hypothermia is dangerously low body temperature, below 95 °F (35 °C).
Other types of cold injuries that affect the limbs are called peripheral cold injuries. Of these, frostbite is the most common freezing injury. Non-freezing injuries that occur from exposure to cold wet conditions include trench foot and immersion foot conditions. Chilblains are a type of nonfreezing injury that develops in cold, dry conditions.
You are more likely to develop hypothermia if you are:
Hypothermia occurs when more heat is lost than the body can make. In most cases, it occurs after long periods in the cold.
Common causes include:
As a person develops hypothermia, they slowly lose the ability to think and move. In fact, they may even be unaware that they need emergency treatment. Someone with hypothermia also is likely to have frostbite.
The symptoms include:
Lethargy, cardiac arrest, shock, and coma can set in without prompt treatment. Hypothermia can be fatal.
Take the following steps if you think someone has hypothermia:
Call 911 anytime you suspect someone has hypothermia. Give first aid while awaiting emergency help.
Before you spend time outside in the cold, do NOT drink alcohol or smoke. Drink plenty of fluids and get enough food and rest.
Wear proper clothing in cold temperatures to protect your body. These include:
Low body temperature; Cold exposure
Winkenwerder W, Sawka MN. Disorders due to heat and cold. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 109.
Zafren K, Danzl DF. Frostbite. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2013:chap 139.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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