Hypothermia

Definition

Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature. It is a dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Causes

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses more heat than it can produce. It is usually the result of being exposed to very cold temperatures. But it can also occur in other circumstances, such as:
  • Being in less cold temperatures with a wind chill
  • Wearing wet clothes
  • Being in a position where you cannot move
  • Being in cold water
  • Certain medical conditions

Risk Factors

People who may have a higher risk of hypothermia include:
  • Babies and young children
  • Older adults
  • Adults under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • People who are mentally ill
  • People who spend long periods of time outdoors
The may also be increased by certain medications and conditions that make it harder for your body to stay warm.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hypothermia usually happen gradually. Over time, mental and physical abilities are lessened. The main symptoms of hypothermia are:
  • Shivering—this increases the muscle activity in your body as your body tries to keep warm
  • Confusion
  • Clumsiness
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations—sensing things that are not real
  • Slowed breathing
  • Cold, pale skin
The situation becomes dangerous when shivering stops and confusion and drowsiness increase. Hypothermia is deadly because it causes the heartbeat to slow down, become irregular, and eventually stop.
Heartbeat
Heart EKG
In hypothermia, the heartbeat slows. If left untreated, the heart will stop beating.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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