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
Take the casualty to shelter as soon as possible.
If possible, remove and replace any wet clothing. Do not give them your clothes. Ensure their head is covered.
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.
Call 999/112 or send for emergency help.
If the casualty is fully alert, encourage them to drink warm drinks and eat high energy foods such as chocolate.
Monitor their breathing and level of response whilst waiting for help to arrive.
Treating hypothermia when indoors
Rewarm the casualty by covering them in blankets and warm the room to about 25oC (77oF).
Encourage them to drink a warm and drink and eat high energy foods such as chocolate.
Seek medical advice; be aware that hypothermia may be disguising symptoms of other serious illnesses such as stroke and heart attack.
Monitor their breathing, level of response and temperature whilst the casualty warms up.