Hypothermia is a dangerous condition that can occur in cold environments. Without proper first aid, hypothermia can lead to death. In this blog post, we will provide information on how to respond to hypothermia which is commonly experienced by hikers and people from countries with snow or winter. First, we will provide an overview of the condition, followed by information on how to diagnose and treat it. Finally, we will discuss some basic first aid responses to hypothermia.
What is it like to suffer from hypothermia?
When a person suffers from hypothermia, they will experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Pale and cold skin
- Slowed breathing or heart rate
- Shivering that cannot be controlled (although at extremely low body temperatures, shivering may stop)
- Weakness and loss of coordination
Effect on your Body
When you’re in cold weather, up to 90% of the heat you lose leaves your body through your skin. The rest comes out of your lungs when you breathe out. Radiation is the main way that heat is lost through the skin, and the process speeds up when the skin is exposed to wind or water. If you are cold because you are in cold water, you can lose heat 25 times faster than if you were in the same temperature air.
The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls body temperature. It does this by setting off processes that heat and cool the body. When exposed to cold temperatures, shivering is a protective way for muscles to work to make heat.
Effect on your Mind
Most of your body heat comes from the work of your heart and liver. But as the body’s core temperature drops, these organs make less heat, so they “shut down” to protect the brain and keep the body warm. Low body temperature can make the brain work, breathe, and beat more slowly.
People may become confused and fatigued, making it difficult for them to comprehend what is happening and make rational decisions about how to move out of harm’s way safely.
How to help someone with hypothermia if no aid is around?
Anyone experiencing hypothermia symptoms should seek medical assistance right away. It is imperative to seek immediate professional help for someone experiencing hypothermia. Call the local emergency hotline or rush to the hospital to get treated. If no aid is around, there are still ways to help, although limited, it can certainly improve the casualty’s condition. Until assistance arrives, the CDC Trusted Source suggests:
- Moving the person to an area that is warm and dry, if that is possible, or with a shield, roof above the head providing protection from the sun, rain, cold, etc.
- Removing any wet clothing from the person
- Covering the person with an electric blanket, if one is accessible, or with dry layers of towels, clothing, or blankets if one is not available
- Having the person drink a warm beverage, excluding alcohol, if they are not unconscious
- Avoiding moving or jostling the person as doing so can cause a fatal heart rhythm abnormality
- Having skin-to-skin contact with another individual to warm them up and increase their body temperature
A person suffering from severe hypothermia may be unconscious and not appear to have a pulse or be breathing. In this scenario, handle the person carefully and get emergency aid as soon as possible. Even if the victim looks to be dead, perform CPR. CPR should be continued until the victim responds or medical help arrives. While performing CPR, keep the person warm. Hypothermia victims who appear to be dead can be successfully resuscitated in some situations.
How to deliver first aid to hypothermia?
Call 911 or the local emergency number anytime you suspect someone has hypothermia. Give first aid while waiting for emergency help. Take the following steps if you think someone has hypothermia:
- In the event that the individual is exhibiting any symptoms of hypothermia, including but not limited to confusion or difficulties thinking, dial 911 immediately.
- Be sure to examine the person’s airway, breathing, and circulation if they are unconscious. If necessary, start performing chest compressions and rescue breathing. Start performing rescue breathing on the victim as soon as their breathing rate drops below six breaths per minute.
- Bring the individual indoors where it is more comfortable and cover them with warm blankets. If going indoors is not an option, move the individual away from the wind and cover them with a blanket to protect them from the chilly ground. Wrap your blanket around the person’s head and neck to retain body heat.
- Those who have suffered from acute hypothermia should be removed from the cold environment as quickly and with as little exertion as is humanly possible. This helps prevent heat from being transferred from the core to the muscles, which is beneficial. On the other hand, it is believed that physical exercise is safe for a person who is just hypothermic to a very mild degree, however, as soon as you are inside, you should change out of any wet or restrictive clothing and into dry clothing.
- Put the person at ease. Utilize the heat from your own body as an additional source of warmth if necessary. Warm compresses should be applied to the groin, chest wall, and neck.
- Warm fluids that have been sweetened but do not include alcohol should be given to the person to help them warm up if they are conscious and able to swallow readily.
- Keep them company until medical assistance arrives.
What Not to Do?
The following are precautions of what not to do to someone suffering from hypothermia. Please keep them in mind as you can’t tell when an emergency can occur. It’s always helpful and beneficial to have knowledge of these things.
- DO NOT automatically presume that a person who is discovered laying still, motionless and exposed to the cold is already dead.
- When trying to warm the individual up, direct heat sources (such as hot water, a heating pad, or a heat lamp) should NOT be used.
- DO NOT give the individual any alcoholic beverages.
Learning how to administer CPR and first aid is an important life skill that can help you save someone’s life in an emergency. If you want to learn more about how to respond to a hypothermia emergency or any other first-aid-related issue, we recommend booking one of our CPR First Aid courses. Our team of experienced professionals will walk you through everything you need to know in order to provide vital assistance in an emergency situation. With this knowledge, you can feel confident that you would be able to handle almost any medical emergency. What are you waiting for? Book your spot today at our new venue at Suite 904, 343 Little Collins St Melbourne CBD!