Hypothermia is characterized as having a core body temperature of less than 95 degrees F. Once the body temperature drops, the heart as well as the nervous system starts to breakdown and can lead to significant respiratory, heart and other issues that can lead to damage to the organs and even death.
Those who are subjected to cold temperatures whether in the workplace or recreation might be in danger for hypothermia.
What are the signs?
It is important to note that there is a sequence of events that occurs as the core body temperature drops.
- At temperatures lower than 95 degrees F, shivering is likely to occur along with an increase in the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate.
- Once the temperate continues to drop, the pulse, breathing and blood pressure decreases. The individual might have slurred speech, confusion, clumsiness and apathy.
- If the core temperature drops lower than 89.9 degrees F, the shivering ceases and oxygen consumption starts to drop. The individual might be in a state of stupor while the heart rhythm becomes erratic.
- If below 82.4 degrees F, the reflexes are lost while the heart output continues to deteriorate. The risk for erratic heart rhythm rises while the brain activity is significantly slowed. The individual has dilated pupils and he/she appears in a state of comatose or dead.
Management of hypothermia
The initial objective is to check if the individual is breathing and has a pulse. CPR might be performed if needed.
- If the individual is unconscious, has difficulty breathing or does not have a pulse, call for emergency assistance.
- Due to the weak and slow heartbeat, it must be checked for at least one minute before CPR is started.
- Rewarming is the second priority when caring for an individual with hypothermia. Remove any damp or wet clothes and provide him/her with warm fluids if able to drink. Make sure that the individual is covered with blankets or any protective cover.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on hypothermia is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications and how it is managed, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.