Most of us have heard about hypothermia and have a basic understanding of what it is. Maybe you even know some ways to prevent or treat the condition. However, there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding hypothermia. We are here to share our knowledge, bust the myths, and give you the facts on hypothermia.
Firstly, what is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a condition which occurs once body temperature drops below 35C. A person with hypothermia may not even realise they have developed hypothermia in the earliest stages. Once body temperature drops below 30C, it enters the severe stage and becomes life threatening.
How do you get hypothermia?
Hypothermia can develop with prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, typically when the environment temperature is under 10C. Being outdoors for long periods of time, cold winds, and unsuitable clothing can cause the body to enter hypothermia.
Hypothermia may also develop in those who have spent time immersed in cold water, whether accidental or on purpose. It can also occur in people wearing cold, wet clothing for long periods of time.
Personal circumstances and health also play a part. Poor nutrition, age, inadequate clothing, or heating, being homeless, over consumption of alcohol or drugs all play a role in the likelihood of developing hypothermia.
Interesting facts about hypothermia
We have compiled some interesting facts about hypothermia to give you an insight into the condition, prevention, treatment, and risk factors.
1. You can get hypothermia indoors.
Explanation: Though many think hypothermia can only occur outdoors, this is not true. While it is less common to develop indoors, prolonged periods of being cold indoors due to a lack of heating, warm clothing, broken windows, lack of insulation and other factors can cause a person to develop hypothermia.
2. Alcohol does not help hypothermia
Explanation: Some people assume alcohol would be beneficial to someone very cold or experiencing hypothermia. This is because when we over-consume alcohol, it can sometimes make us feel warmer at the time.
However, the science behind this feeling is simple. When you drink alcohol, the blood vessels just below the skin open up, making more blood and heat flow into them. This takes blood and heat away from more important places, such as your core. Therefore, while we feel warmer, we are actually redirecting heat from a vital area and putting our health at risk.
3. Babies are at a higher risk of developing hypothermia.
Explanation: As previously mentioned, personal things such as age and health influence your likelihood to develop hypothermia. Babies are at a specific risk due to their very small body size. They are also not as adaptable as adults to changes in the temperature.
4. You shouldn’t use direct heat on a person with hypothermia.
Explanation: Even though it seems like direct heat would help, it should be avoided. Hot water, heating pads or heating lamps can cause damage to the person’s skin. In some hypothermia cases, direct heat can cause irregular heartbeats.
A warm, dry compress can be used, on the neck, chest or groin only. The Mayo Clinic explains that applying a warm compress to the arms or legs in a hypothermia situation can actually force cold blood back to the major organs. Causing the core body temperature to drop even more.
5. Hypothermia is divided into 4 stages.
Explanation: A person may not cycle through all of the stages. Ideally, medical intervention will be given in the first stage. Hypothermia can be fatal. RCEM Learning divides these four stages into the following: Mild, Moderate, Severe and Profound.
Mild: The person may still be alert, are likely to be vigorously shivering, and show some confusion or disorientation.
Moderate: Less shivering, reduced consciousness, reduced co-ordination, breathing is more difficult. Heart rate will continue to slow.
Severe: Continued reduction in consciousness, and a general reduction in ability to move, communicate and more. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate have decreased significantly. There will be a lack of reflexes, and shivering will likely have ceased.
Profound: In this stage, vital signs may not be detectable due to being so weak. In this stage, cardiac arrest can occur. This is when hypothermia can be fatal.
We hope you learned some interesting facts about hypothermia from this post, if you are interested in learning more about hypothermia. Why not take a look at these posts: