Hypothermia Education: Survival in an Extremely Cold Environment
Heat causes hyperthermia*, but today I’m going to share some facts about hypothermia, caused by the cold.
Hypothermia can be distinguished into three stages – mild, moderate or severe. The signs and symptoms can be approximately grouped with the temperature ranges of the different stages:
For mild hypothermia (35-32 oC), signs and symptoms include:
- pale and cool to touch as blood vessels constrict in the skin
- numbness in the extremities
- sluggish responses, drowsiness or lethargic
- increased heart rate and breathing.
For moderate hypothermia (32-28 oC), signs and symptoms include:
- decreasing conscious state
- may have been incontinent of urine as a result of an increased workload on the kidneys related to blood being shunted to the major organs
- no longer shivering
- slowed heart rate, breathing rate and low blood pressure.
For severe hypothermia (below 28 oC), signs and symptoms include:
- unconscious and no longer responding
- the heart beats more slowly and may become irregular before ultimately stopping if the person gets too cold
- no response to light in the pupil of the eye
- rigid muscles – the person might feel like they are in rigor mortis
- pulses and respiratory effort may be present but hard to detect.
Treating hypothermic patients can be done by providing shelter and applying gradual heat. Close body contact with a companion and sipping warm sweet liquids can help the patient get re-warmed. Hospitalization may be needed for moderate to extreme conditions. Medication should only be administered by qualified medical personnel.
As is the norm with any type of situation, prevention is key:
- Cover. Wear a hat or other protective covering to prevent body heat from escaping from your head, face and neck. …
- Overexertion. Avoid activities that would cause you to sweat a lot. …
- Layers. Wear loose fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. …
- Dry. Stay as dry as possible.
Wearing dry suits when engaging in water activities – particularly scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking – can bring warmth in cold water environment.
Education is needed, particularly for individuals engaging in outdoor activities. This could help individuals survive an extremely cold environment, especially at night, in the wild.
Managing the risks that can come with outdoor activities can be a part of the education and survival training. Individuals should realize that aside from fearsome creatures and hostile environment, harsh and cold weather conditions can also be an adversary in the wild.
Hypothermia education includes information about the condition, causes, signs and symptoms, risk factors, complications, treatment, and prevention. It will also teach you when medical intervention is needed. You can ask a specialist or can consult a website for hypothermia education.
*Hyperthermia is elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation** that occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. Extreme temperature elevation then becomes a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment to prevent disability or death.
**Thermoregulation is a process that allows your body to maintain its core internal temperature. All thermoregulation mechanisms are designed to return your body to homeostasis.