Hypothermia

When you core body temperature fall below 95F or 35C, you are experiencing hypothermia. A common example of this would be people falling through the ice. Any exposure to cold for a long period for, poses the risk of severely lowering you body temperature

Hypothermia causes

Because of the delicate balance in our organism, certain processes require for us to live can only occur at certain temperatures.

The body has natural mechanism to warm up the body in the case of an emergency. But if those mechanisms fail, and the heat production is overwhelmed by heat loss, hypothermia sets in. Sometimes extreme cold is not the only case for hypothermia. Because of some diseases the body’s own temperature control is altered, resulting in heat loss in any temperature. This is a condition known as secondary hypothermia.

Body heat can be lost through several ways:

1. 5-65% is lost to the environment through radiation.

2. Conduction only accounts for 2-3% in dry conditions, but this number can increase to 50% if the victim is in cold water.

3. Convection count for only 10%, while 2-9% is lost to heating inspired air.

4. 20-27% is lost through evaporation from the skin and lungs.

5. Children get colder quicker than adults because they have more surface area compared to body mass.

The body has it own ways to heat itself up. But at certain low temperatures this process is not possible anymore. The core body temperature then drops quickly.

From 98.6 F to 89.6 F the body does the following things to warm up:

Shivering: generates heat, but the muscles eventually become fatigued in a matter of hours and run out of fuel

Blood vessels: they contract allowing the blood to remain warmer inside the body

Hormones and other small proteins are released which eat stored fuels in the body, in the hopes of producing heat as a byproduct.

From a core body temperature of 89.6 F to 75.2 F shivering stops and your metabolism slows down. Below a temperature of 75.2 F any effort to heat up the body is stopped, as the core body temperature continues to fall. Hypothermia is primarily an exposure disease. In cold environments it sets in over the course of hours, while in cold ice water it can set in a matter of minutes.

Hypothermia follows a sequence of events as it sets in. At temperatures below 35C, shivering is present, and the body speeds up the heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. As the temperature begins to drop you may experience confusion, slurred speech, due to the pulse, breathing and blood pressure dropping. As the temperature drops below 32.2 C, the heart beat may become irregular and oxygen consumption decreases. When the core body temperature drops below 28 C, the heart slows down even more along with brain activity. This may cause the person to look like they are dead or in a coma.

For people who have been exposed to cold temperatures outside and are suffering from mild hypothermia home care is sufficient. If symptoms such as intense shivering, stiffness, numbness in the arms and legs, clumsiness, sleepiness, confusion, and amnesia are present, medical care is required. In cases of extreme hypothermia, such as falling through the ice, emergency medical care is necessary. The first priority for a severe hypothermia victim is checking for breath and CPR. The second priority is warming the person up. All wet or cold clothes must be removed. The person should be given warm fluids to drink. The person must be covered in blankets and aluminum-coated foils and placed in a sleeping bag if possible. Upon arrival at a hospital, certain procedures are followed depending on the level of hypothermia.

The best way to prevent hypothermia is always being adequately dressed for the weather, and have all parts of your body covered. If you are outdoors always travel with a partner and make sure are physically fit for the journey. Always be weary of wet and windy weather because they can increase the rate of heat loss.

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