In winter if you spend a long time outdoor in the freezing temperature without proper protective clothing, your body temperature would drop suddenly causing hypothermia. Hypothermia or low body temperature occurs when the rate of loss of body heat is greater than the rate at which the body could produce heat. When the body temperature falls below 95 degree Fahrenheit, immediate steps should be taken to raise the body temperature. Hypothermia is a medical emergency, which if left untreated could cause heart and respiratory failure, leading to death.
Causes of hypothermia
Prolonged exposure to cold condition without proper warm clothing causes hypothermia. Staying in cold water for a long time can also cause this condition. Older adults above 65 and children have a greater risk of developing hypothermia. With increase in age, the body’s natural ability to regulate temperature weakens, making elderly people vulnerable to hypothermia. Compared with adults, children are more prone to heat loss.
Excess consumption of alcoholic drinks could make you susceptible to body heat loss. Although, alcohol intake increases generation of body heat, the dilation of blood vessels occurring from alcohol consumption increases heat loss from the skin surface. By reducing the body’s ability to adapt to changes in external temperature, certain tranquilizers or antipsychotic medications could increase the risk of developing hypothermia. Certain diseases such as hypothyroidism, stroke, arthritis, trauma, Parkinson’s disease, neuropathy and burn could impair the temperature regulation mechanism of the body.
An individual affected by hypothermia should be treated immediately. You should promptly shift the person to a warm place indoors. Before medical help arrives, take steps to prevent further loss of body heat. Remove wet clothing and wrap him with blankets and coats. Since most of the body heat is lost from the surface of the head and torso, you should at first cover them with warm clothes. Give the person something warm to drink. However, avoid alcohol or high-energy drink. Applying direct body heat with a heating pad could worsen the condition. In your effort to increase body temperature, avoid massaging the body. This will dilate the blood vessels, causing further loss of body heat.