Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Hypothermia

Hypothermia

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature brought on by staying in cold temperatures for a long period of time. This lowered body temperature affects the brain, thus affecting a person's ability to think clearly or move well. Severe hypothermia can also cause an irregular heartbeat leading to heart failure and death.

While hypothermia occurs most often in very cold temperatures, even cool temperatures (above 40° F) can be dangerous to a person who has become chilled from rain, sweat, or being in cold water for an extended period of time.

Who is at risk for hypothermia?

The following people are most at risk for hypothermia:

Half of the elderly persons who develop hypothermia die before, or soon after, being found. However, even young, seemingly strong people, are affected by hypothermia when exposed to the cold for long periods of time.

What are the symptoms of hypothermia?

The following are the most common symptoms of hypothermia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

To determine if the person is suffering from hypothermia, take his or her temperature with a thermometer. A body temperature under 95° F is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not promptly treated, according to the National Institute on Aging.

What should you do while waiting for medical attention?

It is important that victims of hypothermia receive immediate medical attention. While waiting for medical attention, some methods of dealing with a hypothermia victim include the following:

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