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Hypothermia: Why is it Dangerous

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Hypothermia: Why is it Dangerous

Prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia as your body loses heat faster than it can produce what is necessary for temperature stability. The body uses its stored energy to keep up with the heat demands, lowering body temperature.

The lower your body temperature becomes, the harder it is for your brain to focus, think clearly, and move your body. Because the symptoms come gradually, many people are unaware of their condition. Inactivity and the inability to think makes hypothermia more dangerous, as you may not realize what is happening or seek medical help.

Normal body temperature is approximately 98.6 Fahrenheit (37 Celsius). If your body temperature falls below 95 F or 35 C, you could enter a state of hypothermia. Body temperature can drop very fast.

Lower body temperature affects more than cognitive function, and confusion can also lead to risk-taking actions. It also interferes with the nervous system, heart, and organ functions and can result in respiratory system and heart failure leading to death.

The most common symptoms and signs of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Mumbling
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Weak pulse
  • Lack of energy
  • Clumsiness
  • Stumbling
  • Trouble with coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse

Infants may also experience cold, bright red skin and low energy.

Hypothermia causes include:

  • Extended exposure to cold temperature
  • Lack of heating in a home in the winter during extremely cold weather
  • Falling into or staying too long in cold water
  • Wearing wet clothes in cold weather
  • Wearing clothes that are not warm enough for cold weather
  • Entering a frigid, air-conditioned room after being outdoors in the heat

Risk factors for Hypothermia

Along with the causes mentioned above, some factors can increase the risk of developing hyperthermia.

  • Age

Infants cannot regulate body temperature and are at a high risk of developing hyperthermia. Older adults have thinner skin, and the body’s ability to regulate temperature declines with age, especially if associated with growth hormone deficiency. Growth hormone plays a significant role in temperature regulation.

  • Location

Living in or traveling to colder climates can increase the risk of hyperthermia.

  • Fatigue

Exhaustion decreases your body’s tolerance for cold.

  • Alcohol and drugs

Using drugs or alcohol can impair judgment, including realizing it is too cold outside. Alcohol has a false warming effect on the body from the inside, which is not the case. Instead, alcohol expands the blood vessels, causing the skin to lose heat.

  • Mental state 

Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia increase the risk of hypothermia. People with impaired mental judgment, including those with forgetfulness or dementia, may be exposed to colder-than-usual temperatures without realizing it. Comprehension and communication problems can interfere with judgment associated with selecting the appropriate clothing for the weather and knowing when to come inside.

Some forms of memory loss are associated with growth hormone deficiency. Often to prevent mental issues in people with hormonal imbalances, HGH therapy is used. Learn about Genotropin results to discover the many benefits of HGH therapy.

  • Health conditions 

Some medical issues can alter your body’s ability to regulate temperature or prevent you from feeling cold, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Dehydration

The following conditions can cause a decreased feeling that can hinder feeling cold:

  • Burns
  • Stroke
  • Malnutrition
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Medications

Some medications can alter the body’s ability to regulate temperature, including:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Sedatives

Hypothermia Can Cause the Following Complications

Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous condition that can lead to tissue decay and death. Getting immediate medical help is crucial to prevent complications, including:

  • Frostbite (tissue death)
  • Gangrene (tissue destruction)
  • Chilblains (nerve and blood vessel damage)
  • Trench foot (nerve and blood vessel destruction due to water immersion)

Treatment for hypothermia begins with seeking medical care immediately, as it is essential to warm the body. Be extremely careful while waiting for medical care, as excessive movements, such as using massage to improve blood flow, can cause cardiac arrest. Move them carefully or shield them from the cold.

Other treatment options include:

  • Removing wet clothes – do this carefully to avoid moving the individual. Use blankets to cover and warm them if available. If not, carefully use your body heat.
  • Move to warmth – if possible, move the person to a warmer shelter – be careful when moving someone.
  • Give warm beverages – heating the body from the inside with a warm drink (not alcohol) helps increase body temperature. Only give beverages to someone conscious and capable of drinking.
  • Heat from the center first – warming the body’s central area, chest, groin, neck, and head. An electric blanket will work fast. If not available, use skin-to-skin contact under layers of dry blankets, sheets, towels, or clothes. Warm, dry compresses can also help when applied to the chest, groin, or neck – never the arms or legs, as that can send cold towards the heart and brain, leading to death. Do not use heat lamps or heating pads. Use only warm, not hot, items to avoid causing cardiac arrest.
  • Keep warm – After increasing body temperature to normal, keep the individual dry with the body and heat wrapped in a warm blanket.
  • Perform CPR – monitor breathing and continue CPR until medical help arrives or until the individual responds. The body can shut down during hypothermia but can still be resuscitated.

Preventing Hypothermia

The colder the weather, the greater the risk of hypothermia. Take steps to protect yourself using the acronym “COLD” as follows:

  • Cover: Protecting your body from the cold is crucial, so wear mittens, hats, and scarves outdoors.
  • Overexertion: While it might seem intuitive to engage in physical activity in the cold to stay warm, that could lead to sweating. As your clothing becomes damp, that, combined with the cold air, can cause rapid body heat loss.
  • Layers: Dressing in layers of lightweight clothing is the best option in the cold. You can remove layers if you are warm. The outer layer should be water-repellent, tightly woven material to protect against wind. The best inner-layer fabrics are silk, wool, or polypropylene. Children should wear an extra layer of clothes than adults need.
  • Dry: Getting wet is the worst thing you can do, so changing out damp clothes as soon as possible is crucial. Protect your feet and hands by keeping snow out of your boots and mittens

Because shivering is an early sign of hypothermia, have anyone outside who starts to shiver to go inside immediately.

Bring children inside frequently to warm up when playing in the snow or very cold weather. Babies and young children should sleep in warm, not cold, rooms.

  • Alcohol use:

Because alcohol can increase the risk of developing hypothermia, it is advised that you do not drink if you are going out in cold weather. Also, avoid alcohol on cold nights before going to sleep or when boating to avoid falling into cold water.

  • Car safety:

When traveling on the road, have emergency supplies in your car, including extra water, dry food, booster cables, car repair kit, tow rope, first-aid kit, phone charger and cord, compass, blankets, candles, matches, flashlight and batteries, and a bag of kitty litter or sand for road traction when stuck in the snow or mud. Always let someone know where you are going, and having someone who can “find your phone” is advisable.

  • Cold-water safety

As mentioned above, do not drink alcohol when out on water colder than your body temperature. You need your faculties in case you accidentally fall into the water. Here are some tips to remember:

  • Always wear a life jacket – it provides some insulation and helps you stay afloat without using energy.
  • Try not to swim – it also uses energy and causes you to lose body heat rapidly.
  • Get out of the water quickly – the longer you stay in cold water, the more likely you will experience hypothermia. If possible, climb onto a floating object or capsized boat.
  • Huddle close – If you and others are stuck in cold water, huddle in a tight circle to keep warm.
  • Keep your clothing on – Although wet clothing can lead to hypothermia in the cold, you must keep the layers on for insulation when in the water.


Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition when the body temperature drops too low. Protecting yourself against hypothermia is crucial, especially if you are out in the cold. Knowing the medical conditions contributing to increasing your risk of hypothermia can help you take steps ahead of time.