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Hypothermia: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About hypothermia

Hypothermia is defined as low body temperature which is less than 95° Fahrenheit or 35° Celsius. It is a serious condition which may progress to a medical emergency. Hypothermia is a grave condition which affects the vital systems of the body including the nervous system, the circulatory and the respiratory system.

Hypothermia: Incidence, age and sex

Hypothermia can affect an individual of any age group. However, individuals in extremes of age, malnourished individuals or who have long-standing illness are more susceptible to hypothermia. Men and women may be equally affected by hypothermia.

Signs and symptoms of hypothermia: Diagnosis

The clinical features of hypothermia generally occur a few minutes or a few hours after exposure to cold temperatures. The affected individual manifests with impaired ability to think and act and exhibits uncontrollable shivering. The reflexes become slow and individual shows intense irritability, drowsiness and loss of coordination. The skin becomes pale and feels cold and numb. On clinical examination, the individual shows reduced heart rate and respiratory rate.

Causes and prevention of hypothermia

Hypothermia results due to increased loss of body heat as compared to amount of heat generated in the body. This occurs when an individual is persistently exposed to cold or immersed in cold water. Inadequate clothing or wearing wet clothes in extreme cold weather may also lead to hypothermia.

Physical exercise and wearing appropriately warm clothing in cold temperatures may help in preventing this condition. Other preventive measures include adequate fluid intake, warm clothing and avoidance of smoking and alcohol.

Hypothermia: Complications

Conditions of hypothermia in an individual may be fatal and lead to cardiac arrest, shock or even coma. Thus, it is essential to treat hypothermia immediately to avoid leading to any potentially life-threatening health concerns.

Hypothermia: Treatment

An individual with hypothermia needs immediate medical help. It is significant to immediately remove wet clothing, if any and cover the person with warm clothing. Consume lot of warm fluids and food. If hypothermia is severe and the affected individual has lost consciousness, then heated intravenous fluids may be given to the individual to manage hypothermia.