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How to Deal with Hypothermia Accidentally

December 25, 2017

Indifferent expression, shaking fiercely, can not coordinate movements, even the consciousness is blurred. When being outdoors, if your teammate shows these symptoms, he is at risk of losing heat and in hypothermia and is in urgent need of your rescue.


If the outside element is too cold, and the human body can not generate enough heat to withstand the cold, the body will appear symptoms of temperature loss and lead to hypothermia after a period of time. Loss of temperature will lead to difficulty in coordination and judging and reflection ability decline, hence being at risk of danger in the outdoors.


1,500 deaths is caused by hypothermia annually in the United States. It is more likely to happen among older people and males. One of the lowest recorded body temperatures from which someone with accidental hypothermia has survived was 13.0 °C (55.4 °F) in a near-drowning 7-year-old girl in Sweden. Survival after more than six hours of CPR has been described. For those being available to ECMO or bypass treatment, survival chance is around 50%.


Hypothermia is caused by consistent reduction of body temperature that happens when a body dissipates more heat than it absorbs. In humans, it is defined as a body core temperature below 35.0 °C (95.0 °F). Symptoms mainly depend on the temperature.


In mild hypothermia symptoms there is usually  shivering and mental confusion. In moderate hypothermia symptoms includes shivering stops and confusion increases. In severe hypothermia, there may be paradoxical undressing, in which a person removes his or her own clothing, and it's an increased risk of the heart stopping. There is another symptom of the severe stage of hypothermia, An apparent self-protective behavior, known as "terminal burrowing", or "hide-and-die syndrome", which occurs in the final stages of hypothermia. The afflicted victim will enter small, enclosed spaces, such as underneath beds or behind wardrobes. It is often associated with paradoxical undressing. Researchers in Germany claim this is "obviously an autonomous process of the brain stem, which is triggered in the final state of hypothermia and produces a primitive and burrowing-like behavior of protection, as seen in hibernating animals." This happens mostly in cases where temperature drops slowly.

If the temperature is further exacerbated, the body will be paralyzed, hallucinations, results in a dangerous situation eventually. If the body temperature drops below 32 ℃, the body will fall into a hibernation-like state. Loss of temperature to specific level can easily lead to loss of consciousness and cardiopulmonary failure, serious hypothermia  will make the person loss all of his/her vital signs.


Being outdoors, time is fatal for patients who lose heat and in hypothermia, and teammates are all of their hope.


And as a rescuer, master basic method of temperature and rescue, can really help patients get rid of danger. Regardless of the complexity of the rescue site situation, you should do the following:


The first step: transfer safely

In many cases of hypothermia, the patients are exposed to the harsh environment caused by temperature loss.


When your teammate shows symptoms of temperature loss or symptom of hypothermia in such an environment, the first step in rescue is to move him to safety site. It's incorrect to continue to have him/her exposed to the snowstorm.


Treatment of hypothermia is recommended to stop the loss of body heat and move the injured patient out of open and cold place, patient should no longer be exposed to the cold air.


Wrong treatments: let the patient stay in open, windy and cold element - When teammates show symptoms of hypothermia and do no treatment, or make rescue treatment directly in the trail, peak and other exposed areas where there windy, rainy or snowy, the snow-capped environment will exacerbate the temperature loss in the patients.


Wind is an important promoter of temperature exacerbation of the hypothermia patient. Under the influence of the cold effect, the heat of the patient's body can be quickly taken away by cold air, exacerbating the symptoms of hypothermia.


Correct treatment: Transfer or make camp - Stop outdoor activities immediately, move patients to shelter or hide behind shelter such as rocks. Pitch tents as shelter for rescue if necessary. However, be really cautious as the patient is being moved. In the transfer process, patients need to be gently panned, the body is very fragile at that time without much reaction and feeling/sense, myocardial tissue is very unstable at low body temperatures, external stimuli can easily lead to ventricular tremor.


The second step: isolated from the outside elements

After the patient is safely transferred to the shelter, the cold ground will continue to erode precious heat from the body of the patient, and the rescue team's second step is better to isolate the human body from the ground.


The heat of the body is reduced by evaporation, radiation, convection and conduction under the influence of the environment.


Wrong treatment: lie the patient on ground without any cushion or isolation layer- If you let the patient lie directly on the ground, or there is no sleeping mat as cushion, the ground will be a greedy hand to snap the patient's heat away gradually. Conduction is one of the ways the body heat get lost. If the patient is laid directly in the wet ground, the heat will be transmitted to the ground, the body temperature will be further reduced.


The third step: drying up

Patients suffer from hypothermia may have been walking in the snow for a long time, the inner clothes may get wet; outside rain and snow will damp/wet clothes also. Rescuers should help patients to change clothes as soon as possible to keep the patient's body dry and reduce the heat loss caused by wet clothes.  The body in wet clothes will be 25 times in "loss of body temperature" faster than those in dry clothes.


Wrong treatments: keep the patient on wet clothes - if you let the clothes wet by the rain snow affixed to the patient, his/her body will always be in a humid environment. The moisture in the clothes becomes a heat transfer conductor, and the evaporation of moisture takes away more heat.


Correct Treatment: Changing dry clothes and have the patient in sleeping bags.      No matter how many layers of clothes the patient wore, all the wet clothes should be quickly taken off as soon as they are wet. The body was wiped dry with a fabric, replaced with dry clothes, Or pack the whole body of the patient with thick clothing. Take off damp clothing and allow the patient to drill into the sleeping bag.


The Forth Step: Warms Up Core Area

When the patient has been in severe hypothermia, he or she will be confused and his muscles will no longer tremble. This also shows that the patient's body has lost the ability to warm up the body automatically. At this time, putting it into a thick warmth layers also can not help, we can only focus on the External heating for the core segment of the patient, it's incorrect to warm up the limbs of the patient at first.


Wrong treatment: Start from Rubbing Body Limbs  - A common mistake is to rub your hands and feet. First, friction can cause secondary damage if the patient has a frostbite. Second, an increase in extremity temperature can cause cold-blooded to flow back to the heart and have negative impact.


A large number of cold-blooded in the heart can lead to heart rate disorders. Patients with severe heat loss can enter into a state of self-protection. The body concentrates the warm blood on the core torso. Heating the limbs will make the cold blood to accelerate back to the core area and deteriorate the situation.


The right approach: heating the core body part - the core area can be warmed up a hot water bottle, heat paste(isolated with a layer of clothing), place them around the patient's neck, armpits, groin and other core areas to warm them up.  Hot water bags/bottles can be wrapped in gloves or socks, placed it in the patient's armpits, neck and groin where the blood vessels closest to the surface of the body near the heart. A teammate of with warmer body can also warm a patient directly in a sleeping bag in a body-to-body method.


Step five: intake of energy

The reason why people will be in hypothermia is that the body's hot production can not keep up with the pace of lost of body heat. The body's source of heat is energy. Patients with severe hypothermia have been in a stage of lack of energy, so they need to be in supplement through feeding, to let the body to restore heating capacity as soon as possible. However, drinking alcohol does not supplement energy.


Wrong Treatments: Drinking Alcohol - It is a common mistake to make patients who suffer from hypothermia drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol does have the illusion of a "warm" but accelerates the heat loss and will only speed up lose of body temperature. Alcohol itself does not provide the body with much calories, and it will cause blood vessels to expand and accelerate blood circulation, thereby accelerating the loss of body heat through blood flow through cold skins, dilation of blood vessels will also accelerate the back flow of cold to the core area.


Keep warm and dry at anytime during winter outdoor activities. And enjoy your outdoor trips in winter! Hiking, Camping, Mountaineering, Trekking!




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