Hypothermia - Symptoms & First Aid Advice

hypothermia treatment and how to spot

The body normally maintains a temperature of around 37oC (98.6oF). When the body temperature dips below 35oC (95oF) it is known as hypothermia. Moderate hypothermia can usually be reversed with treatment, however, severe hypothermia – when the body’s core temperature drops below 30oC (86oF) – is often fatal. The severity of hypothermia is determined on the speed of onset and how low the body temperature drops. In all cases, it's important to always persist with life-saving procedures until help arrives as survival may be possible even after prolonged periods of resuscitation.

What to look for

  • Shivering, cold and pale skin
  • Apathy, disorientation or irrational behaviour
  • Lethargy or impaired responsiveness
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Slow and weakening pulse
  • In extreme cases, the heart may stop


What to do

Follow the steps below:

Treating hypothermia when outdoors

Step 1

Take the casualty to shelter as soon as possible.

Step 2

If possible, remove and replace any wet clothing. Do not give them your clothes. Ensure their head is covered.

Step 3

Protect the casualty from the ground by lying them on a bed of dry leaves or blankets. Cover them with blankets or newspapers. Wrap them in a foil survival bag if available.

Step 4

Call 999/112 or send for emergency help.

Step 5

If the casualty is fully alert, encourage them to drink warm drinks and eat high energy foods such as chocolate.

Step 6

Monitor their breathing and level of response whilst waiting for help to arrive.


Treating hypothermia when indoors

Step 1

Rewarm the casualty by covering them in blankets and warm the room to about 25oC (77oF).

Step 2

Encourage them to drink a warm and drink and eat high energy foods such as chocolate.

Step 3

Seek medical advice; be aware that hypothermia may be disguising symptoms of other serious illnesses such as stroke and heart attack.

Step 4

Monitor their breathing, level of response and temperature whilst the casualty warms up.

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