When you are exposed to cold temperatures for an extended period of time, you run the risk of getting hypothermia. This occurs when the body cannot produce enough heat to keep up with the amount of heat lost. Hypothermia is a serious safety concern for people who work outdoors, in cold inclement weather conditions, or in damp freezers. Heat loss is also linked to fluid loss, according to the Outdoor Action Program at Princeton University. Dehydration results in decreased fluid levels and ultimately makes you more susceptible to cold injuries, including hypothermia. Factors, including moist skin, wind chill and exposed skin can also lead to rapidly decreasing body temperatures. If you work or play outdoors, it is essential that you understand how to prevent hypothermia, as well as what to do if you or someone you know should become hypothermic.
What to Look For
Whether you have mild or severe hypothermia, you may experience different symptoms depending on the severity of the condition. Mild hypothermia may cause shivering, slurred speech, memory loss and lack of coordination. If you have a moderate case, you may be unable to stand or walk. Surprisingly, however, once body temperature gets below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, your body will usually stop shivering. When body temperature falls below 86 degrees Fahrenheit, people are likely to become unconscious and eventually die.
How to Treat the Symptoms
If you or someone you are with has mild hypothermia, move to a warmer area as quickly as possible. Try to stay active, drink something warm and remove any wet clothes. Once the situation worsens, you should call for emergency services. Place hot packs or other warm objects on the victim's head and cover up all extremities. People who are suffering from severe hypothermia should be treated extremely gently while waiting for emergency services to arrive.
Prevent the Condition
There are several ways that you can prevent and prepare for hypothermic conditions. These include:
- Be Aware: Take notice of your surroundings. Detect any outdoor or indoor dangers that may be present. Anticipate any injuries that may occur and implement safety precautions to avoid those injuries.
- Dress Accordingly: Make sure to select the proper clothing for the right activity. Not only are gloves, hats and face protectors essential in cold weather conditions, but you may want to use additional warming packs to keep your extremities toasty.
- Know What to Do in an Emergency: Be prepared for a hypothermia emergency by knowing exactly what to do if such a situation occurs. Make sure you have everything available to help yourself or anyone else who becomes hypothermic.
While it is extremely uncomfortable to be cold, many people don't understand the deadly dangers of extreme temperatures. When you are aware of your surroundings, dress according to the climate and know what to do in an emergency, you can reduce the likelihood of hypothermia.