Know The Facts About Hypothermia

Hypothermia is defined as a drop in core body temperature that affects vital organ functioning, can progress through three levels of severity and can be fatal.

Recognizing Hypothermia

A person with hypothermia usually isn't aware of his or her condition, because the symptoms often begin gradually and because the confused thinking associated with hypothermia prevents self-awareness.

If someone has Mild Hypothermia, the symptoms aren't always obvious but they can include:

  • constant shivering
  • tiredness
  • low energy
  • cold or pale skin
  • fast breathing (hyperventilation)

Moderate hypothermia can include symptoms such as:

  • violent, uncontrollable shivering (although shivering can stop completely at lower temperatures as the body is unable to generate heat)
  • being unable to think or pay attention
  • confusion (some people don't realize they're affected)
  • loss of judgment and reasoning (someone with hypothermia may decide to remove clothing despite being very cold)
  • difficulty moving around 
  • loss of co-ordination
  • drowsiness
  • slurred speech
  • slow, shallow breathing (hypoventilation)

The symptoms of Severe Hypothermia can include: 

  • unconsciousness (comatose)
  • shallow or no breathing
  • weak, irregular or no pulse
  • dilated pupils

Learn to recognize the early signs of hypothermia and address them immediately; do not wait for the condition to get more severe.

 

Preventing Hypothermia

It may seem obvious to simply say that keeping warm will prevent hypothermia. But given existing conditions in Breezy Point and with colder weather coming, keeping warm may not be easy even when indoors. While use of portable heaters can help avoid unrealized core body cooling, these present hazards of their own that must be recognized and avoided. (See articles on Portable Heater Fire Safety and CO Poisoning Prevention.)

In addition, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following if you expect to be in a cold environment for prolonged periods:

  • Cover. Wear a hat or other protective covering to prevent body heat from escaping from your head, face and neck. Cover your hands with mittens instead of gloves. Mittens are more effective than gloves because mittens keep your fingers in closer contact with one another.
  • Overexertion. Avoid activities that would cause you to sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.
  • Layers. Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold body heat better than cotton does.
  • Dry. Stay as dry as possible. Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Be especially careful to keep your hands and feet dry, as it's easy for snow to get into mittens and boots.

NOTE: Blankets and warm clothing are available in the Clubhouse!

Avoid the tragic practice of “Terminal Burrowing.” Also known as “Hide-and-Seek Syndrome,” can occur in the later stages of hypothermia when someone seeks warmth by hiding under many layers of blankets or in small, confined spaces like closets.

 

For Help

If you cannot keep yourself sufficiently warm, you are welcome to seek shelter in the Clubhouse.

For more general information about hypothermia, call the Medical Center at 718 702-5209.

If you think that you are experiencing these signs or symptoms of hypothermia, or for any other medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately for assistance.