First Aid Training - Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops when the body temperature falls below 35°C (95°F). The effects vary depending on the speed of the onset and the level to which the body temperature falls. Moderate hypothermia can usually be completely reversed.

Severe hypothermia – when the core body temperature falls below 30°C (86°F) – is often, but not always fatal. However, no matter how low the body temperature is, it is always worth persisting with life-saving procedures until a doctor arrives to assess the casualty.

Recognition features

There may be:

  • Shivering and pale, cold, dry skin.
  • Disorientation, apathy or irrational behaviour; occasionally belligerence.
  • Impaired consciousness or lethargy.
  • Slow and shallow breathing.
  • Slow and weakening pulse.
  • In extreme cases the heart may stop.

Treatment

For a casualty who has been brought in from outside, immediately replace wet clothing with warm, dry garments.

The casualty can be rewarmed by bathing if they are fit, young and able to climb into a bath unaided. The water should be warm but not too hot – about 40°C (104°F).

Put the casualty in a bed and ensure that they are well covered. Give them warm drinks or high energy foods such as chocolate to help rewarm them.

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