Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls to 96 degrees Fahrenheit or below. This temperature drop slows down the circulatory, nervous, and respiratory systems. Hypothermia usually occurs gradually but extreme conditions can cause it within minutes. Irregularity of the heartbeat is among the causes for this condition and may lead to heart failure or death.
Accidental exposure to freezing water, heat loss due to an injury from a serious accident or immersion into cold water may be common causes of hypothermia. Some symptoms of hypothermia are listed as follows:
- Skin, cold to the touch
- Shivering at first
- Slowed breathing
- Irregularity in the heartbeat
Treatment of Hypothermia
The treatment depends upon the severity of the problem. Emergency first aid and CPR may be administered until medical help becomes available. Some first aid methods and treatment options are described below.
Emergency First Aid for Hypothermia
First aid procedures are necessary treatments until professional aid becomes available. However, these treatments do not provide complete medical treatment. First aid can be provided by slowly restoring warmth in the patient. The first aid requires that the patient be kept dry and warm.
Remove wet clothing as a first aid measure. Focus on providing warmth to the patient’s trunk by wrapping blankets or dry cloths, instead of focusing first aid on the hands or feet as this may cause shock. If a hot water bottle is used to provide warmth as a first aid measure, the bottle should be wrapped in cloth instead of being applied directly against the skin.
Cardiopulmonary Respiration for Hypothermia
- While using first aid to provide warmth to the patient, CPR is used as a treatment in extreme cases.
- If a patient stops breathing, emergency CPR should be used as a treatment. If the patient is unable to breathe properly, CPR should start.
- While using this treatment, please bear in mind that CPR for children varies from CPR for adults as a first aid treatment.
- First aid using CPR should continue until the patient starts breathing independently. All due care should be taken while administering CPR.
- If a faint pulse is detected, CPR should no longer be used to support the heart. Using CPR on patients with a slight pulse can cause the heart to stop.
First Aid Pointers for Hypothermia Patients
- As part of the first aid treatment, warm drinks can be given.
- However, alcohol or caffeine must be avoided.
- Doctors in a hospital can best provide further medical treatment after the first aid.
- Hypothermia treatment can vary depending upon the severity — mild, moderate, and severe. Remember, severe cases of hypothermia are life-threatening.
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