How to Survive Hypothermia

How to Survive HypothermiaHypothermia occurs when your core body temperature, which typically averages 98.6° Fahrenheit, drops below 95°F. You should be capable of taking action to help yourself survive mild to moderate hypothermia. Once you have severe hypothermia, it's very unlikely that you'd be able to take action for yourself. In that case, you'd have to depend on the first-aid knowledge of your companions.


Difficulty: Challenging

Step 1 
Be aware of the point at which hypothermia becomes a potential hazard. Getting wet, falling into cold water or simply being outside in cold weather without adequate clothing are all things that may increase your risk of hypothermia. Remember that it doesn't have to be below freezing, or winter, for you to get hypothermia. If it's cold enough out, just getting sweaty may provoke the onset of hypothermia.
Step 2
Take notice of hypothermia symptoms as soon as they set in. One of these symptoms, a gradual loss of mental acuity, makes it hard to recognize hypothermia symptoms in oneself. Do your best to be alert to the symptoms and pay attention if people mention that you're acting strangely. Hypothermia symptoms include having cold, pale skin, shivering (which, in severe hypothermia, may stop, even though you haven't gotten any warmer), slurred speech, lethargy, loss of coordination, and confusion.
Step 3
Call for help. Dial 911 on your phone or blow three tweets on an emergency whistle. This signals an emergency. If someone responds with one tweet it means, "Where are you?" Blow two tweets in response to signal your location. Then move on to the following steps while you're waiting for help to come, or if you aren't able to contact potential help.
Step 4
Get under whatever shelter you can. This may mean crawling inside a tent, inside a sleeping bag, or underneath a spreading tree. Do everything you can to insulate yourself from the ground. This could include piling extra insulation beneath you. Don't forget natural sources of insulation, like dry leaves.
Step 5
Get out of your wet clothing and into a change of dry clothes. Add as many layers as possible to help retain your body heat. Even if you have hypothermia, your body is still capable of re-warming itself if given the opportunity. If you're suffering mild or severe hypothermia and there's someone else with you that's not suffering from hypothermia, have them get as close to you as possible to share body heat, with as few layers of clothing between you as possible. If you're in a sleeping bag, this person should be in the sleeping bag with you.
Step 6
Drink warm fluids, as long as you're not vomiting. Apply warm compresses or heating packs, if you have them, to either side of your neck, your armpits and groin. Build a fire, if possible, to provide an additional source of heat.

Tips & Warnings

One way of remembering hypothermia symptoms is to watch for stumbles, mumbles, fumbles and grumbles.
Try to keep yourself adequately fed. Aim for a combination of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Chocolate bars with lots of nuts make good emergency food. And keep yourself hydrated, avoiding caffeine or alcohol. Your body needs the fuel to warm itself back up.
There are many variables to consider when caring for someone with moderate to severe hypothermia. The condition places him or her at severe risk for cardiac arrest. Investing in first-aid training is the best way of learning how to care for those in this condition. Consider first-aid classes as an investment in your own safety and that of those traveling with you, and encourage your companions to educate themselves as well.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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