Hypothermia is a dangerous drop in body temperature below 95F (35C). Normal body temperature is around 98.6F (37C). Hypothermia can be serious if not treated quickly. You should call 911 and give first aid if you notice signs of hypothermia.

​Causes of hypothermia

Hypothermia happens when your body gets too cold and your temperature drops below 95F (35C).

Hypothermia can be caused by:

  • inadequate clothing in cold weather

  • falling into or swimming in cold water

  • getting cold in wet clothes

  • being very tired and cold

Symptoms of hypothermia

Early signs of hypothermia include:

  • shivering

  • cold and pale skin

  • slurred speech

  • fast breathing

  • tiredness

  • confusion

These are symptoms of mild hypothermia, where someone's body temperature is between 89.6F (32C) and 95F (35C). If their temperature drops to 89.6F (32C) or lower, they'll usually stop shivering completely and may pass out.

 

This is a sign that their condition is getting worse and emergency medical help is needed.

If you become hypothermic, or too cold, while in the river or lake you may become too weak to get out of the water and drown! 

​Hypothermia in babies

Babies with hypothermia may look healthy, but their skin will feel cold. They may also be limp, unusually quiet and refuse to feed.

​Treating hypothermia

You should call 911 and then give first aid if you think someone's got hypothermia.

First aid for hypothermia

You need to warm the person up.

Follow these five steps:

  1. Move them indoors.

  2. Remove any wet clothing and dry them.

  3. Wrap them in blankets or sleeping bag.

  4. Give them a warm non-alcoholic drink, but only if they can swallow normally.

  5. Give energy food that contains sugar, such as a chocolate bar, but only if they can swallow normally.

If the person can't be moved indoors, find something for them to rest on to protect them from the cold ground, like a towel, blanket or sleeping bag. If they don't appear to be breathing – and you know how to do it – give them CPR, but you must continue this until professional help arrives in the form of the ambulance service or a medical team.

​Things to avoid

Some things can make hypothermia worse:

  • Don't put the person into a hot bath.

  • Don't massage their limbs.

  • Don't use heating lamps.

  • Don't give them alcohol to drink.

These actions can cause the heart to suddenly stop beating (cardiac arrest).

​Who's at risk?

Some groups of people are more vulnerable to hypothermia.

They include:

  • babies and children – they lose heat faster than adults

  • older people who are inactive and don't eat well 

  • heavy alcohol and drug users – their bodies lose heat faster

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