Heat and Cold


What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a life-threatening cooling of the body’s temperature due to exposure to cold water, ice, or air. Chills and shivering can progress to much more serious symptoms, including disorientation, drowsiness, slurred or incoherent speech, memory loss, and unconsciousness. It only takes a decrease in core body temperature to about 94° to 95°F (34° to 35°C) for the onset of hypothermia to occur, and external conditions don’t even have to be particularly harsh. For example, a human body floating in 40°F (4°C) water can suffer from hypothermia in less than half an hour. Professional medical assistance is, of course, indicated for treatment of hypothermia, with the most important procedure involving stabilization of the body’s temperature. An effective treatment is to have the patient inhale humid, warmed air (107° to 122°F [43° to 50°C]), which warms the respiratory and nervous systems and helps restore brainstem function that, in turn, controls heart function.


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