8 Causes of Hypothermia – Prevention – Treatment
Hypothermia is a serious condition that can be experienced by a person usually because of exposure to cold temperature.
For example, hypothermia can attack a person who climbs a mountain but does not wear the right clothes. A person can also suffer from hypothermia due to falling into a pool whose water is so cold. Or because he/she was in a cold place for too long, or wearing wet clothes for too long.
Hypothermia is basically a situation where human body temperature decreases drastically.
Normal body temperature is in the range 35-36 degrees Celsius. Hypothermia attacks cause human body temperature to fall below normal limits. This will make the work of vital organs, such as brain, heart and lungs, to slow down. If this condition persists, the person may lose consciousness. Symptoms of hypothermia are :
- Slow breath
- Obscure speech
- Memory loss
- Weak pulse
Below we will look at some of the causes of hypothermia including its risk factors.
In general, hypothermia is more likely to occur in infants and the elderly. This is because the baby’s ability to regulate body temperature is not yet perfect and is still in development stage. On the contrary, the elderly‘s ability to regulate body temperature has decreased.
2. Certain Medication
Someone who takes drugs such as opiate analgesics, sedatives, and antidepressants will be more susceptible to hypothermia. These drugs affect the body’s ability to regulate body temperature. There are also illegal drugs that can make the user lost his/her consciousness and not aware of the cold around him/her.
3. Certain Diseases
Diseases such as hypothyroidism, stroke, and anorexia nervosa affect the regulatory system of body temperature. While Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects memory, can make the sufferer unaware if he/she is experiencing hypothermia.
4. Too Long Being in the Cold
One of the most common causes of hypothermia is to spend too much time in a cold area. For example being on a mountain or being in an air-conditioned room with a very low temperature. Mountain climbers undoubtedly are vulnerable to hypothermia, especially when they are not wearing the right clothes. Cold also often makes the nose runny. It does not hurt you to know a few ways to stop running nose in cold weather.
Contrary to popular opinion, liquor is not the best option for treating hypothermia. Liquor or alcohol causes narrowing of blood vessels, which in turn will make a person more susceptible to the cold. In addition, alcohol affects the ability to think and motor skills. The higher the alcohol levels in the blood, the lower the person’s coordination ability. Alcohol in high doses may inhibit thermoregulation thereby decreasing the body’s resistance to the cold. Anyway, if by chance you want to stop drinking, it’s good to know several effective ways to get sleep during alcohol withdrawal.
6. Accidentally Fell into the Sea
A person who accidentally falls into the sea, such as in a ship accident or plane crash, is more susceptible to hypothermia. Cold water is more dangerous than cold air. Cold water causes the body heat to dissipate faster, hastening the occurrence of hypothermia. If someone falls into the sea whose temperature is 5 degrees Celsius, he/she will only survive for about 20 minutes. After that the muscle will weaken and he/she will experience disorientation because the blood flows away from the head, hands and feet toward the core of the body.
7. Wet Body
Hypothermia is easy to occur to someone who is exposed to wet and cold conditions for a long time, e.g. exposed to rain at night. Nevertheless, changing clothes and staying in a warm place is sufficient to avoid hypothermia.
8. Wearing Improper Clothes in Cold Weather
Wearing thin clothes in cold weather undeniably will trigger hypothermia, especially in the absence of warmers or heating furnaces.
Prevention of Hypothermia
It is not difficult to avoid hypothermia. There are some simple steps you can take as a precaution.
- When you’re traveling to a cold place, wear clothes in layers, thick jackets, head cover, gloves, socks and closed shoes. Just in case if you need it, bring spare clothes and raincoat as well. Make sure you are comfortable wearing it all.
- You must avoid the rain. If you have to travel in the rain, wear a raincoat so that your clothes will not get wet.
- When the wind blows hard, immediately wear a thick coat or windproof jacket. The wind can make the body heat slowly disappear.
- Eat high-calorie foods that are easily digested such as chocolate and palm sugar. Those foods serve to maintain your energy and body temperature in prime conditions even in cold weather.
- Do not force yourself to travel in cold weather if you are not in good shape. If you have to, try not to travel alone.
If you want to help someone with hypothermia, do it gently. Do not give physical shock to the victim. The victim must remain immobile as much as possible so that the cold blood of the feet and hands will not flow back to the heart quickly. A cold heart can cause ventricular fibrillation (heart rate disorder).
The heart beats fast but with irregular electrical activity so the heart pump room just vibrates and does not pump blood throughout the body properly. Speaking of heart, it is good for you to know the signs of clogged heart.
Below are the first aid steps that can be done without the need to undergo medical training first.
- Slowly remove the wet clothes.
- Put on dry clothes and cover the victim with a blanket.
- Cover the head and neck with a thick scarf.
- Move to a warm place and protected from the wind.
- Place hot water bottles to the head, neck, body and thighs.
- If the victim is conscious and can swallow, give a warm and sweet drink. No alcohol and caffeine.
The purpose of the first aid is to prevent the loss of body heat, warm the victim, and then immediately seek medical help.
Well then, we have reviewed some of the causes of hypothermia. It is important to recognize your body’s limits. Hypothermia can be prevented if you are wise to respond. After all, cold-related problems are part of life.