With the start of 2018 underway, we are already reaching new lows with warnings of the worst winter in history, and climatic terms that are new to us, such as ‘bomb cyclone’. Plummeting temperatures are currently putting everyone in the North East at risk for major health issues, including hypothermia. One of the reasons hypothermia can be such a dangerous risk is that it can creep up on you before you realize just how severe it is. With the brutal winds caused by the bomb cyclone, hypothermia can set in much quicker than usual. We want you to be aware of the symptoms of hypothermia, and know what to do to treat it.
So what is Hypothermia?
When your body is no longer able to heat itself fast enough to offset the amount of heat that is leaving your body, it will actually start to dive into your internal energy stores and drain your body fairly rapidly. The draining of energy often will manifest in hypothermia, and unfortunately loss of energy is not the only risk that your body will begin to face.
As hypothermia sets in, many parts of your body can lose the ability to function. Motor functions will become impaired, you may lose the ability to think clearly or rationally, and scarily enough often times lose brain function. If you happen to be alone when hypothermia symptoms set in, all of these physical impairments may hinder you from getting help.
What are the Symptoms of Hypothermia?
- Unsteady walking
- Memory loss, or slurred speech
- Extremely low energy
- Bright red skin
- Drowsiness, or exhaustion
Even though symptoms of shivering or red skin may be common to see in people who are in the cold, it is important to keep a close eye on them. In the case of slow breathing, drop of pulse, or even loss of consciousness, please call 911 immediately as these are very serious signs of hypothermia. If at all possible, try to warm the suffering person and administer CPR while help is on the way.
Who is most susceptible to hypothermia?
- Babies and very young children are at very high risk for hypothermia from even staying in a bedroom that is too cold.
- Elderly people who may not have adequate heating, warm clothing, or may not be properly nourished.
- People who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Being under the influence in any capacity may also impair your judgement when first experiencing symptoms of hypothermia, and put you at unnecessary risk.
- Homeless persons, hikers, outdoor explorers, or simply those who remain outdoor for long periods of time.
How do I treat hypothermia?
Ideally we would suggest seeking professional medical care, but if this is not available immediately take the following steps.
- First, take the victim’s temperature. If their internal temperature is below 95-degrees, they qualify for immediate medical care.
- Next, take the person to a warm area, preferably sheltered from the elements. If any wet items of clothing are on the victim, remove them.
- Next, it is most important to warm the victim’s core first. This will include their chest, neck, head, and groin. Cover them in blankets, towels, coats (making sure that all items are dry), and if at all possible use skin to skin contact to help warming. If you have access to heating pads, blankets, or hot patches, make use of these.
- The goal will be to raise the victim’s internal body temperature as much as possible, once this is achieved, do not halt efforts. Keep them wrapped in layers, again attempting prioritize warming their core.
If you start to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia in yourself or a loved one, please do not hesitate to bring them into our Vernon urgent care center or call us with questions at 860.986.7600. There is always someone available to answer your questions.