What is hypothermia?

Environmental hypothermia is a condition in which the body's core temperature drops due to exposure to cold (below 95 degrees Fahrenheit). Anyone who is out in the cold, in a cold room, or who becomes cold and wet can develop hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than heat can be produced.

Hypothermia symptoms tend to develop gradually. As your body temperature drops, it can become harder for you to think clearly, so you may develop hypothermia and not realize you have it. Shivering, clumsiness, fumbling hands, exhaustion, memory loss, and slurred speech can occur. As hypothermia progresses, the victim may lie down and drift into unconsciousness.

Those who have the highest risk of developing hypothermia include the elderly and infants, people who spend extended periods of time in the cold, and people who drink alcohol or take illicit drugs.

Treatment of hypothermia involves warming the victim, while resuscitation, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), may be necessary. CPR should even be provided to victims who appear dead, as they may be successfully resuscitated.

Hypothermia can represent a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, orsomeone you are with, haveserious symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, stumbling or fumbling, alteration in level of consciousness, shallow breathing, weak or absent pulse, dilated pupils, or body temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of hypothermia?

Symptoms of hypothermia include feeling cold and shivering, which may be followed by difficulty thinking, confusion, clumsiness, exhaustion, and ultimately unconsciousness. As you develop hypothermia, much of your blood flow is directed away from your skin and toward your vital organs. As a result, you may become pale and develop a blue tinge in your lips, fingers and toes. However, babies may ... Read more about hypothermiasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes hypothermia?

Although many people may think hypothermia occurs only when you are outdoors in the cold, it can also occur indoors if the temperature is low enough, or anywhere if you become cold and wet. Initially, your body will try to adjust to the decreased temperature, but ultimately the body cannot produce heat as fast as it loses heat and your body temperature starts to drop. Blood is then diverted to ... Read more about hypothermiacauses

TREATMENTS

How is hypothermia treated?

Hypothermia is treated by warming your body and removing wet clothing. It is important to focus first on warming the central portion of the body; otherwise, blood vessels of the skin may dilate and your temperature may drop. Once your temperature starts to increase, your extremities can also be warmed. The person should be kept warm and dry, and medical attention should be sought as soon as pos... Read more about hypothermiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Injuries and Wounds


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