Hypothermia is a medical emergency when the body loses heat faster than it can produce, resulting in a dangerously low body temperature. It is most commonly caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures but can also be caused by certain medical conditions, medications, or alcohol use. Hypothermia can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. The normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). It is considered hypothermia when the body temperature drops below 95°F (35°C).
The signs and symptoms of hypothermia can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Mild hypothermia may cause shivering, confusion, and slurred speech. As the body temperature drops further, the person may become unresponsive, have difficulty breathing, and their heart rate and blood pressure may drop. If hypothermia is suspected, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment may include:
In severe cases, the person may need to be hospitalized and given warm intravenous fluids or heated air to warm the body. It is important to prevent hypothermia, especially in cold weather. Wear layers of clothing to keep warm, avoid alcohol and drugs, and be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypothermia.
Preventing hypothermia involves taking steps to avoid prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, such as wearing appropriate clothing, staying dry, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, which can impair the body's ability to regulate temperature. It is also important to be aware of the early symptoms of hypothermia and seek medical attention if they occur.