Tips on surviving cold weather

January 05, 2009|By TERRY TOMALIN / St. Petersburg Times


Hypothermia occurs when more heat escapes from your body than your body can produce. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia may include gradual loss of mental and physical abilities. Severe hypothermia can lead to death.


Common signs to look for are shivering, which is your body's attempt to generate heat through muscle activity, and the "-umbles": stumbles, mumbles, fumbles and grumbles.

Other hypothermia symptoms may include:

o Slurred speech

o Abnormally slow rate of breathing

o Cold, pale skin

o Fatigue, lethargy or apathy


Move the person out of the cold. Preventing additional heat loss is crucial. If you're unable to move the person out of the cold, shield the person from the cold and wind as best you can.


Remove wet clothing. If the person is wearing wet clothing, remove it and replace it with a dry covering. Cover the person's head. Try not to move the person too much. Cut away clothing if you need to.

Insulate the person's body from the cold ground. Lay the person face up on a blanket or other warm surface.

Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may appear unconscious, with no apparent signs of a pulse or breathing. If the person's breathing has stopped or appears dangerously low or shallow, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately if you're trained.

Share body heat. To warm the person's body, remove your clothing and lie next to the person, making skin-to-skin contact. Then cover both of your bodies with a blanket.

Provide warm beverages. If the affected person is alert and able to swallow, have him or her drink a warm, nonalcoholic beverage to help warm the body.

What not to do Don't apply direct heat. Don't use hot water, a heating pad or a heating lamp to warm the person. Instead, apply warm compresses to the neck, chest wall and groin. Don't attempt to warm the arms and legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop. This can be fatal.

Don't massage or rub the person. Handle people with hypothermia gently because they're at risk of cardiac arrest.

Don't provide alcoholic beverages. Alcohol lowers the body's ability to retain heat.

Source: The Mayo Clinic

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