Hypothermia – First Aid
With the change in weather here MediTec Solutions has produced a guide for surviving the cold weather and protecting yourselves. As you may already know the young and very old are the most vulnerable at this time of year, however anyone can suffer from hypothermia. Hypothermia is a potentially life threatening condition that is a result of the body temperature dropping below 35 °C. Small children and babies are most at risk as they cannot regulate their body temperature as well as an adult.
There are three levels of hypothermia.
- Acute hypothermia – this is when the body loses heat very fast, an example could be someone falling in ice cold water or in an avalanche where someone is starved of oxygen.
- Subacute hypothermia – a good example of this is a hill walker who is exercising in moderately cold weather conditions and becomes tired/exhausted and as a result can’t produce enough heat to keep them warm.
- Chronic hypothermia- this is where heat loss occurs slowly, over days or weeks and is most common in the elderly or people that are sleeping rough when they have insufficient heating or clothing to keep them warm.
* This is a guide and people may suffer from one or more of these conditions combined. *
Other factors that can influence hypothermia
Wet clothes – wet clothes help remove heat from the body core, as a result cold wet clothes should be removed and replaced with dry clothing as soon as possible to prevent further heat loss.
Wind – the higher the wind speed, the greater the wind-chill. Wind-chill is recognised as a decrease in air temperature felt by the body or exposed skin due to the flow of air over it.
It is difficult to diagnose someone with hypothermia outside the hospital environment as specialist tempreture probe are required.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Pale looking
- Cold to touch
- Uncontrollable shivering
As hypothermia gets worse they may experience some of the following:
- Reduced level of consciousness
- Slurring of speech
- Reduced breathing rate
- Reduced heart rate
- Remove cold, wet clothing
- Put on warm dry clothing
- Cover their head (this is where we lose a large amount of our heat)
- If they are on the floor make sure you put something under them
- Do not actively warm them, this can make their condition a lot worse
Foil blankets are a cheap life saver. Do you carry one in your car?
They help prevent further heat loss, which in turn prevents the condition getting any worse. Always seek medical advice for someone with hypothermia and if they lose consciousness and are breathing put them in the recovery position. If they stop breathing do CPR.
NOTE: If they are very cold avoid moving them. The extreme cold can affect their heart and any swift movement could cause a cardiac arrest.
So in summary:
- Hypothermia is a serious condition that can be life threatening
- Check someone’s temperature by using a tympanic or ear based temperature probe.
- If it reads “low temperature”
- Remove wet clothing
- Wrap the person in dry blankets
- If you are outside, get out of the wind
- If they are not conscious – Call for help
- Put them in the recovery position
- Roll the person onto a form of insulation, this could be a thermal blanket or something similar
Last but not least carry thermal blankets in your car in case you get stuck
First Aid Training and more information.
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