Hypothermia is dangerously low body temperature, below 95 °F (35 °C).
Persons most likely to experience hypothermia include those who are:
Hypothermia occurs when more heat is lost than the body can generate. It is usually caused by extended exposure to the cold.
Common causes include:
As people develop 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.
Call 911 anytime you suspect someone has hypothermia. Give first aid while awaiting emergency assistance.
Before you spend time outside in the cold, do NOT drink alcohol or smoke. Drink plenty of fluids and get adequate food and rest.
Wear proper clothing in cold temperatures to protect your body. These include:
If you have diabetes or circulatory problems, see your doctor regularly and maintain good health habits in order to reduce the risk of blood vessel complications that may put you at risk for hypothermia.
Low body temperature; Cold exposure
Danzl DF. Accidental hypothermia. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosenâ€™s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 2009:chap 138.
Bessen HA. Hypothermia. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 192.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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