This is a condition which sets in when the body temperature falls below about 35°C
- a). Prolonged or accidental immersion in cold water.
- b). Inadequate protection against a cold environment, particularly if the casualty is
exhausted or at a high altitude.
- c). General exposure to cold by being in an unheated or poorly heated house or wearing
wet clothes for a long period.
- d). The ability of the body to protect itself from cold is lessened by alcohol or drugs.
- e). Certain medical conditions such as diabetes may also be a contributory cause.
Symptoms and signs
The stages of hypothermia are as follows:
- a). Casualty complains of feeling miserably cold.
- b). Casualty's skin becomes pale, although infants may be pink and appear deceptively
- c). Casualty feels abnormally cold to the touch.
- d). Intense and uncontrollable shivering may appear.
- e). Shivering decreases and may be replaced by lack of muscle co-ordination and slurred
- f). General comprehension of the situation is dulled and the casualty may become
- g). Pulse and respiration rate slow down.
- h). Loss of consciousness: breathing and heartbeat increasingly difficult to detect.
The aim is to prevent the casualty from losing any more body heat and help to regain
normal body temperature. Arrange urgent removal to hospital.
- a). Place insulating material around the casualty including the head and neck, but not
the face, and lay the casualty down.
- b). If the casualty is unconscious, place in the recovery position.
- c). DO NOT place the casualty's hands in direct contact
with the body.
- d). Remove casualty from the cold environment or high altitude. Place in shelter or move
to a warm room.
- e). If the casualty's clothing is wet and adequate dry clothing is available, remove wet
garments and replace them. If no clothing is available, leave wet clothes on and cover with waterproof material and
additional insulation if available.
- f). Give the conscious casualty hot sweet drinks.
- g). If breathing and heartbeat stop or have stopped, begin resuscitation. A casualty
with severe hypothermia may have a
- very slow heartbeat which is difficult to detect and an imperceptible breathing rate.
Therefore, always check for heartbeat for at least one minute before commencing External Chest Compression.
- h). Examine the casualty for frostbite and treat as necessary.
- i). Remove to hospital.
- j). DO NOT give alcohol or rub or massage the limbs or
encourage casualty to take any exercise.
- k). If medical help is not readily available, apply gentle heat to the casualty to
prevent a further drop in temperature. Place
- hot water bottles wrapped in a towel or clothing into the casualty's left armpit but not
on the extremities.
IT IS BEST FOR CASUALTIES OF HYPOTHERMIA TO BE RE-WARMED AT THE SAME RATE AS THERE
BODIES WERE COOLED, i.e. SLOW ONSET OF HYPOTHERMIA MEANS A SLOW RE-WARMING PROCESS.
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