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Know the Signs of Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops slowly, causing shivering, clumsiness, confusion, and memory loss. Ironically, advanced hypothermia symptoms can actually cause you to feel too warm and shivering may stop.

Call 911 or seek emergency care immediately if you are experiencing hypothermia symptoms. As your body drops below 95 degrees, your heart, brain, and other organs can stop working properly. This can lead to very serious complications, such as hypothermia cardiac arrest and hypothermic shock. Emergency doctors at Dignity Health St. John's can provide the fast care you need.


Understanding Causes of Hypothermia at Dignity Health St. John's

Your body can lose heat in four different ways, causing hypothermia. They are:

  • Convection. Your body takes heat from your body and transfers it to something else, such as the ground or water. When even one part of your body is exposed to water, hypothermia can happen very quickly.
  • Conduction. Moving air takes heat from your body. You probably recognize it as wind chill, which increases your risks for hypothermia.
  • Evaporation. Your body cools itself by sweating, but this can accelerate heat loss and dehydration. Both can lead to hypothermia.
  • Radiation. This happens when the air temperature is cooler than your body. The greater the difference and the more exposed your skin, the faster your body cools. This combination increases your risks of hypothermia.

Emergency doctors at Dignity Health know that most cases of accidental hypothermia are caused by convection or conduction. Less common are evaporation and radiation hypothermia.


Preventing & Treating Hypothermia

If you or someone you know is showing signs of hypothermia, perform the following first aid steps until you can get professional medical help:

  • Get indoors or to warm shelter.
  • Take off wet clothing.
  • Cover with blanket, especially an electric blanket, or even skin-to-skin contact.
  • Look for other injuries and give appropriate first aid.
  • Drink warm liquids that do not contain caffeine or alcohol.
  • Seek medical care as soon as possible.

Of course, the best advice we can offer is to prevent hypothermia from occurring in the first place. Wear layered clothing, stay dry, change out of wet clothes, and avoid overexertion that can cause sweating and wet clothes. With these things in mind, you can enjoy outdoor activities in every season without the risk of hypothermia.

For more safety tips on preventing hypothermia, Find a Doctor at Dignity Health.