Hypothermia Treatment: What To Do In An Emergency

October 21, 2015

Here at Ready Tribe, we like to try and help you be prepared for all sorts of situations. Treating hypothermia can quickly become an emergency situation so it is important that you know what to do if the situation arises. Remember too that not just people going out in cold weather get hypothermia. In the colder months we need to look after our elderly and very young too, especially if they are not active and spending a lot of time in cold rooms, concerned with not being able to pay their heating bills.

Effects of Temperature On The Body

To make sure our bodies function properly, a body temperature of 97 to 99°F (36 to 37°C) must be maintained. To achieve this, we adapt to different external conditions. If it is cold, we retain heat by wearing warm clothes and we can also create heat by eating high-energy foods. Prolonged exposure to extremes of temperature can severely damage the skin and other body tissues.

hypothermia - slow death

What Is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 95° F (35°C), for example, in very cold weather or on expeditions. It is often caused by wearing unsuitable clothing in cold weather or by prolonged immersion in cold water. Elderly people can also get hypothermia if they spend lots of time in a poorly heated room in the cold weather.

The old and very young are the most vunerable as elderly people can be less aware of changes in temperature and young babies do not have a fully developed mechanism for temperature regulation. This means both age groups are easily affected and need extra care.

Signs and Symptoms Of Hypothermia

  • The casualty may become unconsciousness.
  • The skin may become very cold and pale, and they can’t control their body from shivering.
  • They may become clumsy and irritable.
  • When talking, speech may become slurred.
  • The casualty's breathing may become slow and their pulse weakened.
  • They may show other signs of lethargy.

If You Can Get Your Casualty Indoors

Try to:

  • Stop loss of body heat.
  • Warm up the casualty.
  • Obtain medical aid.

To help with this, you will need to have a supply of dry and warm clothes, warm drinks and high-energy food like chocolate.

1. Get Them Changed Out Of Their Wet Clothing

If a casualty has been brought inside with wet clothing, get them changed into warm and dry clothes as soon as possible to help them warm up.  If thy are young and fit then they can take a bath to warm up. Try to make sure that the water should be a warm 104°F (40°C). If the casualty is elderly or is a young baby, get them warm by wrapping blankets around them so they slowly raise their core body temperature.

2. Put Them In Bed And Give Them Warm Drinks

Make sure you put the casualty into bed and give him or her warm drinks, such as soup, or high-energy foods such as chocolate. Cover their head to provide them additional warmth and then make sure you then seek medical advice and CALL A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.

For A Casualty Outdoors

Try to:

  • Stop the casualties body temperature falling further.
  • Make the casualty warmer.
  • Get medical assistance.

To help do this, you will need a survival bag, sleeping bag or blanket, warm, dry clothes and warm drinks and high energy food.

1. Make Them Stop And Rest Immediately

Stop what you are doing immediately and rest. You should not try to continue on in the hope that you can find shelter for the casualty. Insulate the casualty with extra clothing or a survival bag to raise their body temperature. If the casualty has wet clothing and you have dry clothing available, make sure they get changed ASAP. If you have other people in your group, send them ahead to get help immediately.

2. Shelter And Insulate The Casualty

Make a shelter for the casualty to protect them from the elements. Ensure they are wrapped up in a survival bag, blanket or a sleeping bag and get them to wear as much additional clothing as possible.

DO NOT use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket to attempt to warm the casualty.

DO NOT give the casualty any alcoholic drinks as this will lower their core temperature further.

3. Give The Casualty A Warm Drink.

Try to give the casualty a warm drink such as milk, tea, cocoa or soup, and some high-energy foods such as chocolate to raise their internal body temperature. Try to reassure and comfort them so that they remain calm and positive and do not begin to panic.

If the casualty loses consciousness, check their breathing and place them in the recovery position or on their side. If necessary, be ready to resuscitate them.

4. Check For Signs Of Frostbite.

Frostbite can happen when parts of the body such as fingers or toes become frozen due to extreme cold.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Frostbite?

  • A prickling pain that is followed by a loss of feeling in the affected area.
  • Skin that has been affected will become very hard and first turn white, eventually turning blue and then black.

Try to:

  • Warm the affected area slowly in order to prevent further damage to the tissue.
  • Obtain medical aid as quickly as possible.

You will need a gauze bandage or dressing.


DO NOT thaw a frostbitten foot if further walking is necessary
DO NOT warm the frostbitten area with a hot water bottle.

Remove tight clothing around the affected area to allow better blood flow. This can include gloves and boots and other items such as rings. You should then warm the affected area slowly (hands in armpits is a good method) and then apply a loose dressing until the colour and feeling comes back.

5. Arrange For The Casualty To Be Transported.

Arrange to get the casualty to hospital using a stretcher. Do not let them walk or leave them alone.

Additional Reading:
How To Survive In Snow And Extreme Cold

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