Hypothermia is a medical emergency caused by your body losing heat faster than it can create heat, resulting in a dangerously low body temperature. The average human body temperature is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia happens when your body temperature dips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
When your body temperature falls, your heart, neurological system and other organs are unable to function effectively. Hypothermia, if left untreated, can cause an adverse effect on your heart and breathing system, as well as death.
Exposure to cold weather or immersion in cold water is a common cause of Hypothermia. The primary cure for Hypothermia is to reheat the body to normal temperature. So let us define Hypothermia before we go any further.
Hypothermia – Background
Many people have experienced a loss of sensation in their fingers and toes due to extreme cold. This is an indicator that you have been in a chilly atmosphere for too long and need to warm up quickly. If your fingers and toes remain cold for an extended period, you may get frostbite; but, if your entire body remains cold for a particular period, you may develop the far more hazardous condition of Hypothermia.
Hypothermia is a medical disorder that affects the body’s temperature. It happens when you are exposed to extreme cold over some time. The average body temperature is 98.6°F. If your body temperature falls below 95°F, you have Hypothermia. Hypothermia can also occur in temperatures that are not extremely cold, such as those above 40°F. This is typically caused by a person becoming wet, sweating or caught in cold water. It is hazardous and perhaps fatal. Most people are unaware they have it until it is too late. Hypothermia, if left untreated, can result in a heart attack, liver damage, renal failure or death.
The hypothalamus is the region of the brain that regulates body temperature. When your hypothalamus determines fluctuations in body temperature, it triggers physiological reactions to revert the temperature into balance.
What are the recognised symptoms of Hypothermia?
In newborns and the elderly, symptoms might be difficult to detect. The warning indicators revealed in adults include:
- Shivering, shaky hands and/or reduced mobility (shivering is indicative of a person’s active heat regulation systems)
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Confusion and memory loss
- Drowsiness or exhaustion
- Slurred or mumbled speech
- Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps
- Skin that is cold and red (skin may turn blue in later stage)
- A slow, weak pulse
- Reduced rate of breathing or heart rate
- In severe Hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse
What factors contribute to Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is caused by a drop in your body temperature. Your body can no longer produce heat to regulate it. There are a few types of such conditions for varying reasons.
This happens when your body temperature abruptly decreases. If you fall into cold water, this can happen. It can also happen if you are damp and chilly. Hikers, hunters and individuals without shelter are at risk. People who get exposed to cold for an extended time are at risk.
This happens as your body temperature drops over time. The elderly and newborns have a more difficult time managing their body temperature. They are vulnerable to Hypothermia over time.
Hypothermia due to exhaustion
This happens when your body’s temperature dips due to exhaustion from producing heat. People with specific health illnesses or have substance use disorders are more vulnerable.
Hypothermia during surgery
This strikes when your body temperature drops after having surgery in a hospital. It might be difficult for your body to keep warm after having anesthesia. Primary risk factors/causes are
– For elderly people. The body’s capacity to regulate temperature and detect cold may deteriorate with age. Furthermore, some aged persons may be unable to communicate or transfer to a warm spot if they feel cold.
– For youngsters. Children lose heat at a higher rate than adults. Children may also disregard the cold since they are too busy having fun to worry about it. And they may lack dressing appropriately in cold conditions or to get out of the cold when necessary.
Alcohol makes you feel warm by bringing all that wonderful, warm blood closer to the temperature receptors in your skin. Alcohol has such a reputation for warming you up that it is frequently promoted as an anti-cold elixir.
Unfortunately, the proximity of blood to the surface permits more heat to leave the bloodstream and, finally, the body. Even though a few drinks make you feel warm at the moment, you are now far more vulnerable to Hypothermia.
Mental diseases such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder increase your risk of Hypothermia. Dementia, or memory loss accompanied by speech and cognitive issues, can further raise the risk of Hypothermia. Individuals with weak mental reasoning may fail to dress appropriately for cold weather. They may also be unaware that they are cold and may remain outside in freezing weather for some time.
Some medicines have the potential to impair the body’s capacity to regulate its temperature. Certain medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, narcotic pain medicines and sedatives are examples.
Your geographical location
Where you reside can also influence your likelihood of experiencing chill body temperatures. Living in locations where extremely low temperatures occur regularly increases your risk of exposure to extreme cold.
Other medical conditions
Some diseases affect the body’s ability to maintain an adequate temperature or to feel cold. Patients with metabolic diseases, such as Diabetes, are more susceptible to Hypothermia than the general population. Similarly, some people with neurological problems (Parkinson’s disease) have difficulty controlling core body temperatures. Other medical conditions include hypothyroidism, anorexia nervosa, stroke, severe arthritis, trauma and injuries of spinal cord.
What are the different stages of Hypothermia you can encounter?
Based on body temperature and symptoms, your medical practitioner commonly distinguishes three stages of Hypothermia:
- Mild Hypothermia: 90 to 95 degrees accompanied by shivering and change in mental state
- Moderate Hypothermia: 82 to 90 degrees, with conditions of reduced level of consciousness; shivering or no longer shivering
- Severe Hypothermia: less than 82 degrees; unconscious; no longer shivering
Some people consider core body temperatures below 68 or 75 degrees to be profound Hypothermia.
What are the preventive measures to keep away from Hypothermia?
- Always check the weather forecast before moving out.
- Make sure to cover yourself in cold weather. Baby and small children should be dressed appropriately for the weather. Avoid taking newborns and children out in cold weather if they do not have warm hats, jackets, trousers and gloves.
- Consume adequate meals each day. Your body burns more calories when you feel cold. You must also keep some body fat for your body to stay warm.
- As quickly as possible, make your way to a warm, dry shelter.
- Warm beverages should be served, but alcohol and caffeine should be avoided since they accelerate heat loss. Do not attempt to give fluids to someone unconscious.
- People suffering from Hypothermiawould need immediate medical attention if they are unconscious, have no pulse or show breathing difficulties. In severe cases, if there is no indication of breathing and no pulse, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) should be administered promptly.
- Hospitalisation is recommended in advanced Hypothermia The patient may suffer complications such as Pneumonia, heart arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation, cardiac arrest during treatments.
Hypothermia is a life-threatening medical condition. Deaths from exposure and accidental Hypothermia occur all around the world, posing significant management issues. While Hypothermia is typically associated with colder climates, it may also occur in warmer climates in many countries. In hospitalised patients, Hypothermia can occur, especially during the warmer months. If you or someone you know is suffering Hypothermia symptoms, get medical treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, Hypothermia can be fatal.
- 1 Hypothermia – Background
- 2 What are the recognised symptoms of Hypothermia?
- 3 What factors contribute to Hypothermia?
- 4 Alcohol usage
- 5 Mental illness
- 6 Medications
- 7 Your geographical location
- 8 Other medical conditions
- 9 What are the different stages of Hypothermia you can encounter?
- 10 What are the preventive measures to keep away from Hypothermia?
- 11 Conclusion
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