How to Avoid Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is the decrease in body temperature to a level that can cause your heart, nervous system, and other organs to stop working. If left untreated, it may also lead to death. At least 1500 casualties are recorded each year in the USA because of hypothermia. If you plan a trip in cold weather, especially one that lasts overnight. Then, it’s important to know how to avoid hypothermia by recognizing its causes and early signs.
What are the causes of hypothermia?
Exposure to cold weather and cold-water immersion are two leading causes of hypothermia. But It may also be related to any situation where your body loses heat continuously, like in cold wind when you wear fewer clothes.
It is caused by exposure to a cold environment.
It is caused by an underlying pathology that prevents the body from generating enough core heat.
What are the symptoms of hypothermia?
Thermoregulation maintains our core body temperature at 36. 5-37.5°C by generating heat to compensate for the heat loss. Hypothermia occurs when body heat loss exceeds the body heat production levels and the core body temperature drops to 35.0°C or less (depending on levels) in humans.
Symptoms of mild hypothermia
- Body temperature ranges from 32.2 to 35°C.
- Mental confusion.
- Fast heart rate
- Fast respiratory rate
- Increased urine production due to cold.
Early signs of moderate hypothermia
- Body temperature ranges from 27.7 to 32.2°C
- Shivering stops, and Confusion increases
- Slurred speech
- Loss of motor skills
Symptoms of severe hypothermia
- Body temperature drops to 26.6°C or less, and muscle damage starts.
- Cold and inflamed skin
- Fixed dilated pupils
- Paradoxical undressing in which people feel the heat and remove their clothes
- Heart and respiration rates decrease
- An increased risk of heart-stopping.
How to avoid hypothermia before planning a trip in cold weather?
Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly
If you are going on an adventure trip, take some time to check the weather forecast and prepare for your time outside. Be aware of the risk of hypothermia, as wind and humidity can lower your body temperature even if the temperature seems relatively warm.
Take a sleeping bag to spend the night outside
If you plan to spend a night outside, pack the proper clothing and a sleeping bag to protect you from cold temperatures.
Things for hiking
Weather-appropriate clothing, hiking boots, or shoes. Plenty of food. Plenty of water. Navigation tools such as a map and compass. Bring a pack with extra layers, a flashlight, and your cell phone if you need help. Make sure to sign your name in the track record.
Inform others about your location
Tell at least two other people where you will be and when you will return.
Carry backup clothing for emergencies
Carry backup layers in case your clothes get wet. If you’re packing for an expedition, pack your backup layers in a waterproof plastic bag to keep them dry in case you need them.
How to avoid hypothermia when you are out in cold weather?
Stay warm by wearing more layers of clothes.
It’s the most effective way to protect your body from heat loss. Don’t expect just one layer of clothing to be enough protection from cold air. Wear several layers to avoid hypothermia.
Cover your head, face, and neck
Wear a hat or other protective covering to prevent body heat from escaping your head, face, and neck. These lose heat more quickly than other parts of the body.
Layer up your hand and feet
To protect your hands and feet from frostbite, use socks and gloves. It’s better to use mittens instead of gloves in freezing weather.
Wear wicking fabric next to your skin
Wicking fabric like polyester keeps moisture from your skin as you sweat, so your body stays dry.
Wear wool fabric over the bottom layer.
Wool is the best choice for cold weather, as it provides excellent insulation and is quite warm.
Wear a waterproof layer on top.
Depending on the type of weather you might encounter, wear one more waterproof layer to protect yourself or place it in your backpack for unusual situations.
Avoid wearing cotton clothes in cold weather.
Cotton is not warm enough to keep you safe from hypothermia. When it gets wet, it holds moisture against your body since it dries slowly.
Avoid stomping through wet areas.
Moisture makes you more vulnerable to hypothermia. It’s better to avoid tramping in wet areas unless you’re wearing waterproof shoes and waterproof covers for the bottom of your legs to keep your feet and legs dry.
Indulge in physical activity.
It’s okay to sweat for a short time to boost your metabolism. It may help you warm up in a short period. But sweating can be dangerous when the temperature drops and your body cools down, so avoid sweating for too long.
Take cover to avoid wetting.
If it starts to rain or snow and you are outside, take shelter where you can. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid getting wet, but that means you need to get dry as soon as possible.
Take shelter to avoid cold winds.
Cold wind blows through your clothes and lowers your body temperature faster than still air. It’s better to take shelter. Try staying close to the trees or mountainside, so you don’t have the wind blowing you from both directions.
Don’t drink alcohol
To avoid alcohol-related risks of hypothermia, don’t drink alcohol If you’re going to be outside in cold weather or doing to bed on a cold night.
How to avoid hypothermia if you mistakenly fall into cold water?
Any water that’s colder than normal body temperature causes heat loss. Follow these to avoid hypothermia if you accidentally fall into the water.
- Get out of the water as soon as possible.
- Don’t attempt to swim unless you’re close to safety.
- Grabbing a life jacket before boarding the boat is a life-saving idea. A life jacket provides you insulation and keeps you floating in emergencies.
- Position your body using the HELP technique to minimize extra heat loss.
What is the HELP technique?
- Maintain your head out of the water.
- Keep your clothes on to help retain heat.
- Bring your knees to the chest.
- Press both your arms against your sides.
- Keep movement to a minimum and stay calm.
- Bunch with others, if possible.
How to avoid hypothermia in the car?
- It’s a good idea to keep emergency supplies in your car like blankets, matches, candles, a clean can, a first-aid kit, dry or canned food, a can opener, a compass, and a bag of sand to spread for traction if you’re stuck in the snow.
- Cuddle together and stay covered.
- Run the car for 10 minutes each hour to heat it up.
- Make sure a window is slightly open, and the exhaust pipe is not covered with snow when the engine is running.
How to avoid hypothermia in young children?
- Dress them with an additional layer than an adult.
- Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia. If you find kids shivering with cold, immediately take them in and serve them a hot drink.
- Don’t let babies sleep in a cold room.
- Hypothermia is a serious medical condition. If you or someone with you is experiencing serious symptoms, seek medical help.
- If medical care isn’t immediately available, take shelter nearby, remove wet layers of clothes, cover your head and take warm liquids to speed up your metabolism. For more information check out our article on how to treat hypothermia.
- Do not consume alcohol or caffeine in an attempt to warm up. It may actually speed up heat loss.
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