Nothing Burns Like the cold

As famous novelist George RR Martin said "Nothing burns like the cold".  So what are the dangers of this? Besides for frostbite, the most common danger due to extreme cold is hypothermia.

 

"Hypo...what?" you may ask. Well pronounced as hy-poe-THUR-me-uh, it refers to a condition in which a person's body loses warmth faster than it can produce it - this causes dangerously low body temperature. This is a potentially lethal state for your body to be in.

 

Types of hypothermia

  • | Mild hypothermia: 32-35 degrees Celsius
  • | Moderate hypothermia: 27.7 - 32 degrees Celsius
  • | Severe hypothermia: Lower than 27.7 degrees Celsius

 

Symptoms

  • | Shivering (this goes away as the hypothermia gets worse – shivering is actually a good sign that your body is still trying to generate its own heat. But take action before the hypothermia progresses)
  • | Shallow and slow breathing
  • | Loss of memory and confusion
  • | Exhaustion or drowsiness
  • | Slurry or mumbling speech
  • | Lowered coordination
  • | Fumbling hands and/or stumbling steps
  • | A slow, weak pulse
  • | In case of severe hypothermia, the affected person may be unconscious with no obvious signs of breathing or a pulse

 

 

First Aid

  • | Remove any and all wet clothing
  • | Work gently as excessive movements can cause cardiac arrest
  • | Move the person out of the cold and to a dry area. If this is not possible, then shield the person from the cold and wind
  • | Keep person in a horizontal position
  • | Cover the person with blankets and extra clothing – cover the person’s head and body, only exposing the face
  • | Lay the person on a blanket to insulate from the cold ground
  • | If the person is able to swallow, give them warm liquids besides caffeinated and alcoholic beverages to help warm the body

 

Monitor the following

  • | The person’s breathing. In the case of severe hypothermia the person may appear unconscious with no obvious signs of a pulse or breathing. Begin CPR immediately if the breathing has stopped or appears dangerously low and shallow
  • | The person’s pulse
  • | The person’s temperature

 

What not to do

  • | Do not use a warm compress on the arms or legs. When this is done, cold blood is forced back toward the heart lungs and brain which will cause the core body temperature to drop – a possibly fatal event
  • | Do not apply direct heat such as the use of hot water, a heating pad or lamp since the extreme heat can damage the skin or cause an irregular heart rate which may cause the heart to stop.

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