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What is hypothermia or frostbite? Symptoms, causes and methods of prevention

Study guide

Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when the human body loses heat in excess of the amount of heat it produces, causing the body temperature to drop dangerously. The normal body temperature is about 37 degrees Celsius. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 35 ° C. Read more about hypothermia and rescue methods below.

What is hypothermia?

When the body temperature drops, the heart and nervous system and other organs can not function normally and hypothermia occurs. If left untreated, hypothermia can lead to complete heart and respiratory failure and eventually death. Hypothermia is often caused by exposure to cold air or immersion in cold water. Early treatments for hypothermia are methods of warming the body to bring it back to normal temperature.

Symptoms of hypothermia

Shivering is the first thing you will notice as the temperature starts to drop, because the body’s automatic defense against low temperatures is actually an attempt to warm the body. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Tremble;
  • Weak pulse;
  • Slow and shallow breathing;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Obscure speech or belief;
  • Confusion or memory loss;
  • Drowsiness or very low energy;
  • Inconsistency in shaking hands;
  • Bright and cold red skin (in infants).

A person with hypothermia is usually unaware of their condition, as the symptoms of frostbite often begin gradually. Also, the inability to think that occurs with hypothermia prevents self-awareness. In addition, confused thinking can lead to risky behavior.

Causes of hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it produces heat. The most common cause of hypothermia is exposure to cold air or cold water. However, if you do not wear appropriate clothing or can not control the situation, prolonged exposure to any environment that is colder than the body may lead to hypothermia.

Specific conditions that lead to hypothermia include:

  • Long stay in the cold;
  • Falling into the water (like a sailing accident);
  • Inability to take out wet clothes or go to a hot, dry place;
  • Wearing clothes that are not warm enough for the weather;
  • Living in a house that is too cold (due to lack of proper heating).

How the body loses heat

The body loses heat in one of the following ways:

  • WindThe wind removes body heat by removing a thin layer of hot air on the surface of the skin.
  • Radiant heat: The greatest heat loss is due to heat radiated from unprotected surfaces of the body.
  • direct contactIf you are in direct contact with something very cold, such as cold water or cold ground, the heat will escape. Because water performs so well in transferring heat from the body, body heat is lost in cold water much faster than in cold air. Likewise, if your clothes are wet, the loss of heat from the body will be much faster, like when you are stuck in the rain.

Time to see a doctor

Take precautions when seeing a doctor to treat hypothermia.

Call the emergency room if you think someone has hypothermia. While waiting for emergency assistance to arrive, move the person gently indoors if possible. Excessive shaking of the person may provoke irregular and dangerous heartbeats. Carefully remove wet clothes and replace them with a warm, dry coat or blanket.

Factors that increase the risk of hypothermia

  • FatigueWhen you are tired, your cold tolerance will decrease.
  • medicinesSome medications can alter the body’s ability to regulate body temperature. Examples include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and painkillers.
  • Older ageThe body’s ability to regulate temperature and feel cold may decrease with age, and some older people may not be able to communicate when it is cold or go to a warm place if they feel cold.
  • Alcohol and drug useAlcohol may warm the body from within, but it dilates blood vessels, causing heat to dissipate rapidly from the surface of the skin. One of the side effects of alcohol consumption is that it reduces the body’s natural response to vibration.
  • Some medical problems: Some health disorders affect the body’s ability to regulate body temperature; For example, hypothyroidism (hypothyroidism)), Malnutrition or anorexia nervosa, Diabetes، stroke، Arthritis Severe, disease Parkinson, Noted trauma and spinal cord injuries.
  • Very young age: Children lose body heat faster than adults. Children may also ignore the cold, because they are too busy and usually do not think about it. Also, they may not realize that they have to dress appropriately in cold weather or get out of the cold environment when necessary.
  • Mental and psychological problems: People with mental illness, dementia Or other conditions that interfere with judgment may not be appropriate for the weather or they may not be aware of the risk of cold weather. People with dementia may get out of the house or get lost easily, causing them to get stuck in unfavorable cold or humid weather outside the home. In addition, the use of alcohol or psychedelics can influence your judgment about the need for indoor space or wearing warm clothing in cold weather. If a person gets drunk in cold weather and loses consciousness, they are more likely to develop hypothermia.

Complications of hypothermia

Gangrene is a complication of hypothermia

People who suffer from hypothermia due to exposure to cold weather or cold water are also vulnerable to other cold injuries, including:

  • Freezing of body tissues (frostbite);
  • Tissue corruption and death due to cessation of blood flow (gangrene).

Prevention of hypothermia

1. Stay warm in cold weather

Before you or your children walk in the cold weather, remember a few things. These points are called COLD for short, which means cold. Each of these points begins with a letter that together form the word COLD.

  • Cover or coverUse a hat or other protective cover to prevent body heat from escaping from your head, face and neck. Cover your hands with gloves.
  • OverexertionAvoid activities that make you sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothes and cold weather can lose body heat more quickly.
  • Layers: Wear loose, layered and light clothing. Outerwear, if waterproof, is suitable for protection against windstorms. The inner layers of wool, silk or polypropylene retain body heat better than cotton.
  • DryStay as dry as possible. Take off wet clothes as soon as possible. Be especially careful to keep your hands and feet dry, as snow can easily get into gloves and boots.

۲. Protect children from the cold

To help prevent hypothermia, follow these tips when children go out in the winter:

  • Do not put babies to sleep in a cold room;
  • Cover infants and young children with one more layer than adults in the same condition;
  • Ask the children to come indoors regularly to keep warm when playing outside;
  • If the children start to tremble, bring them into the house. Shivering is the first sign of the onset of hypothermia.

3. Car safety in winter

Car safety plays an important role in preventing hypothermia

Whenever you travel in bad weather, make sure your acquaintances know where you are going and when you are expected to return from the trip. That way, if you encounter a problem on your way, rescue workers will know where to look for your car.

Also, it is better to have emergency equipment in the car to use it in case of emergency. These include several blankets, matches, candles, and a clean can in which you can melt the snow and turn it into drinking water. Also: first aid kit, dry or canned food, door opener, tow rope, compass and a bag of sand to spread on the ground to pull the car out if you get stuck in the snow. If possible, travel by mobile phone.

If you get stuck, put whatever you need in the car, get together and cover yourself. Turn on the car every hour for 10 minutes to warm up. Make sure the windows are slightly open and the exhaust pipe is not covered with snow when the engine is started.

4. Avoid alcohol

To avoid the risks of alcohol-related hypothermia, do not drink alcohol if you are in the following conditions:

  • If you are sailing;
  • Before going to bed on cold nights;
  • If you are going to be outside in cold weather.

5. Safety tips in the face of cold water

Water does not have to be very cold to cause hypothermia. Any water that is colder than normal body temperature will cause the body to lose heat. The following tips will help you survive longer in cold water if you accidentally fall into the water:

  • Get closer to others. If you are in cold water with other people, keep warm by facing each other in a tight circle.
  • If possible, get out of the water and stay as far away from the water as possible. You can get on an overturned boat or catch a floating object.
  • Do not try to swim unless you are close to help. Try to stay in place unless a boat, other person, or life jacket is near you. Swimming consumes energy and may shorten survival time.
  • Do not take off your clothes. Do not take off your clothes while in the water; Because clothing helps keep you away from water. Fasten the buckles and buttons of the clothes and pull the zipper of the clothes up. If possible, cover your head. Take off your clothes only after you have safely come out of the water and can warm and dry yourself.
  • Wear a life jacket. If you are going to get on a boat, wear a life jacket. Life jackets help you survive in cold water by helping you float your body without using energy and creating some insulation space. Attach a whistle to your life jacket to use for help when needed.
  • Position your body to minimize heat loss. To reduce heat loss while waiting for help, use a body position known as Heat Vapor Reduction (HELP). To protect your upper body, keep your knees toward your chest. If you are wearing a life jacket that rotates your face in this position, bring your legs close together, bring your hands to the sides and your head back.

6. Helping people at risk

For people who are most at risk for hypothermia, such as infants, the elderly, people with mental or physical problems, and the homeless, social support programs are a great help in preventing hypothermia. If you are at risk or know someone at risk, contact them for services that support centers may provide, such as:

  • Shelter for the homeless;
  • Helping to pay for heating bills;
  • Check the house to make sure the environment is warm enough;
  • Hothouses or safe and warm places where people can go in cold weather.

Warning! This article is for educational purposes only and you need to consult a doctor or specialist to use it. more information




What is hypothermia or frostbite? Symptoms, causes and methods of prevention

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