Hypothermia

By Ryan Ouellette

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a medical emergency where you lose your body heat faster than you can gain it.

Body Systems Affected

Hypothermia affects the Circulatory System (CS), Respiratory System (RS), and the Nervous System (NS).

How They Work

Normally:

  • Supply’s the right amount of O2 to our cells (CS)

  • Respiratory System controls your breathing and helps with speech formation

  • Nervous System controls your reflexes, and reflexes are reactions to threats to your survival, so you need those



With Hypothermia:

  • Loss of circulation in the hypothermic parts of your body (CS)

  • Slurring of speech, slow shallow breathing (RS)

  • Shivering as an attempt to warm up the body (NS)

Target Population

Anyone can get Hypothermia. It’s not specific to a certain ethnicity. But cold temperatures are usually found only in the Northern Hemisphere.

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Onset

You get Hypothermia by staying out in cold weather too long or by being in frigid waters in the winter. Elderly people usually get it by being exposed to cold temperatures indoors that younger people are immune to. You get Hypothermia when your body temp. passes below 95F (35C).

Diagnosis

Hypothermia can only be diagnosed with a rectal thermometer. Rectal thermometers are special thermometers that measure how cold your temperature is. Just like thermometers measure how hot your temperature is.

Signs and Symptoms


Mild Hypothermia:

  • Shivering

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Faster Breathing

  • Lack of coordination

  • Fatigue

  • Faster heart rate



Moderate-Severe:

  • Shivering but stops as Hypothermia worsens

  • Clumsiness

  • Mumbling/slurring of speech

  • Drowsiness

  • Weak pulse

Treatment

Bring the patient inside ASAP and remove all wet clothing and cover patient in multiple blankets. Any jarring movements can trigger “dangerous irregular heartbeats.”


Prognosis

If it goes untreated, Hypothermia will eventually lead to heart and respiratory failure. That means death.

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