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Quality Care for Hypothermia

Hypothermia is when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it and your core body temperature drops below 95°F. Below normal body temperature, the brain, heart, and other organs cannot work properly. Hypothermia can become fatal very quickly and is a medical emergency. 

Dignity Health offers quick and efficient treatment, 24/7, for hypothermia in the Bay Area.

What Causes Hypothermia?

The body loses heat in four ways:

  • Conduction is when your body transfers heat to solid matter, such as when you lay directly on cold ground. Since water conducts heat faster than air, hypothermia can occur quickly if any part of your body is wet.
  • Convection is when moving air pulls heat from your body faster than stable air, increasing the risk of hypothermia. An example is wind chill.
  • Evaporation is heat loss through sweating. Sweating in a cool or cold environment accelerates heat loss and can cause dehydration, which promotes hypothermia.
  • Radiation is heat loss to the environment, which occurs when air temperature is cooler than your body. The more exposed skin and greater difference in temperature, the faster heat is lost.

Most cases of accidental hypothermia are caused by convection and conduction.

Signs of Hypothermia: Get Help at Dignity Health

Hypothermia happens gradually, so you may not realize it. Symptoms include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Memory loss
  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech

During severe hypothermia, you may start feeling too warm and stop shivering. This can cause you to remove clothing, making hypothermia worse. Eventually, loss of consciousness and death occurs.

Hypothermia Treatment & First Aid

Treatment for hypothermia is vital to prevent injury or even death. For signs of hypothermia:

  • Cover with a blanket or whatever is available. An electric blanket is ideal but even skin-to-skin contact with a warm body can help.
  • Examine the person for injuries and deliver first aid as needed.
  • Give conscious people warm liquids — avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Move the person to a warm shelter, preferably inside.
  • Remove wet clothing.
  • Seek medical care as soon as possible.

To help prevent hypothermia:

  • Avoid overexertion, which can lead to wet clothing from sweating. 
  • Change wet clothing, mittens, and socks as soon as possible. 
  • Cover your skin. Don't forget your hands and head.
  • Wear layers and choose the right clothing. Cotton is a poor insulator and can help cause hypothermia if it gets wet. Wool with an inner wicking layer is the safest choice. 

Dignity Health provides emergency care for hypothermia in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.