Hypothermia Prevention and Preparedness
As we are approaching the fall and winter months we need to prepare for the onset of cold weather and winter storms. In a perfect world we are protected by clothing and comfortable heating units in our homes and vehicles. When presented in a situation where long-term cold weather exposure is eminent survivalist should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of dangerous cold weather problems such as hypothermia.
Hypothermia occurs when the body loses more heat than it can produce and causes a dangerously low body temperature. Our normal body temperature lies around 98.6 F (37 C) and hypothermia occurs when your body temperature passes below 95 F (35 C). Hypothermia is dangerous because it can lead to the failure of your organs including your heart, nervous system, and respiratory system. It is usually caused by exposure to cold weather or cold water.
Symptoms of Hypothermia
The first sign that the body is fighting against cold is shivering. The body does this in an attempt to warm itself. Additional signs of hypothermia according to the Mayo Clinic include:
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty thinking
- Poor decision making
- Lack of concern about one’s condition
- Progressive loss of consciousness
- Weak pulse
Basic Hypothermia Treatments
You should seek medical attention if you or someone around you appears to be showing signs of hypothermia. In the meantime you can exercise the following:
- Limit movements to only those that are necessary.
- Don’t massage or rub the person as this can trigger cardiac arrest.
- Move the person out of the cold and into a warm, dry location.
- Remove wet clothing.
- Cover the person with blankets, especially the head.
- Share body heat by making skin-to-skin contact. Cover both of your bodies with blankets.
- Drink warm nonalcoholic beverages.
- Avoid direct heat as this can damage skin and cause irregular heartbeat.
It is possible to avoid hypothermia with good planning even if you know the body will be subjected to extreme cold. Remember this acronym when preparing for the cold temperatures: COLD
Cover- Your most commonly affected areas are your nose, cheeks, ears, fingers and toes. Cover your hands with mitts and wear protective clothing to prevent heat from escaping from your head, face, and neck.
Overexertion- Even though it is cold you should avoid sweating as this causes wet clothing and can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.
Layers- Professionals always suggest keeping warm with layers. Outer layers should be water-repellent and inner layers should hold in heat. Try wool, silk, or polypropylene for the inner layers.
Dry- Try to stay as dry as possible as wetness can cause you to lose body heat. Take special efforts to keep your hands and feet as dry and warm as possible.