What is hypothermia?
"Hypo" means low. "Thermia" has to do with temperature. So hypothermia is dangerously low body temperature, usually below 95° F (35° C).
You get hypothermia when you're in a cold place for a long time
Hypothermia is more likely if it's windy, you're in cold water or wet, or you can't move around to keep warm
At first, hypothermia makes you shiver
As hypothermia gets worse, you become confused and lose awareness
People may die if their body temperature gets below 88° F (about 28° C)
Babies and older people are at the greatest risk of hypothermia
See a doctor right away if you think you have hypothermia.
What causes hypothermia?
Hypothermia is caused by being in a cold place and not being able to warm your body.
You have a higher risk of getting hypothermia if you’re in a cold place and you:
Don't move your body (for example, you're injured or passed out from drinking alcohol)
Have certain health problems, such as infection, poor blood circulation, or hypothyroidism
Are very old or very young
It doesn't have to be really cold. You can get hypothermia even when it's only as cold as 55 or 60° F (about 13 to 16° C).
What are the symptoms of hypothermia?
At first you shiver a lot and your teeth chatter.
As hypothermia gets worse, you may also:
Become slow and clumsy
Be confused and respond slowly
Have slow reactions
Lose good judgment
Fall, lie down to rest, or wander
Stop shivering and slip into a coma
Eventually, your heart stops ( cardiac arrest Cardiac Arrest and CPR Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood and oxygen to the brain and other organs and tissues. Sometimes a person can be revived after cardiac arrest, particularly if treatment is... read more ) and you die. However, you need less oxygen when you're really hypothermic. So some hypothermic people, particularly children, can live after being in cardiac arrest for up to an hour.
How can doctors tell if I have hypothermia?
Doctors tell you have hypothermia by checking your temperature. If your temperature is less than 95° F (35° C), you have hypothermia.
How do doctors treat hypothermia?
Anyone who's hypothermic should:
Take off wet clothes and dry off
Put on plenty of warm, dry clothes and a hat and cover up with a warm blanket
Drink something warm
If you're awake and just cold and shivering, this will warm you up eventually. If you seem confused or sluggish, someone should take you to a hospital. Doctors may have to do special warming treatments.
In a hospital, doctors may warm your body with the following:
Give you warm oxygen to breathe
Pump warm fluids into your veins through an IV or into your belly through a tube
Sometimes, warm your blood through a machine that pumps your blood out of your body, warms it, and pumps it back in
Don't give CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to someone with hypothermia, because it could damage the person's heart. Just call 911 so the person can be brought to the hospital right away.
How can I prevent hypothermia?
You can prevent hypothermia in cold places by:
Wearing a hat
Having layers of clothes that you take off or put on to keep warm but not get sweaty and wet
Older people get hypothermia more easily, so they should:
Keep their home at least 68° F (20° C), especially in the bedroom
Wear several layers of clothing, and make sure to cover their head, fingers, and toes in cold weather
Wear clothes made of wool and other insulated materials
Eat warm foods and drink warm fluids (but not alcohol) when they're in cold places
Walk around when they feel cold, to help warm the body
If you can’t afford to keep your home warm enough, look for fuel assistance programs in your area to get help with these costs.