Hypothermia occurs when the core temperature of the body falls to below 35°C (95°F). Once below 35°C, shivering stops and the casualty no longer feels cold but appears lethargic and apathetic. If the body temperature continues to drop, hypothermia sufferers may become increasingly confused and may even begin to experience sensations of heat
and attempt to remove their clothing. At a temperature of below 30°C (86°F), the muscles become rigid, and unconsciousness will eventually ensue. A body temperature of less than 27°C (80.6°F) will eventually cause cardiac arrest. Elderly people and babies are particularly susceptible to hypothermia, but young, healthy people can also be at risk if exposed to extremely low temperatures for lengthy periods of time.
Treatment of hypothermia
1. Bring the casualty indoors. Remove any wet clothes.
2. If indoors, and the casualty is capable of moving unaided, fill a bath with hot water (40°C/I04°F) and completely immerse him or her in it. If the casualty is frail or elderly, do not bathe him or her as this could be dangerous. Instead allow him or her to warm up gradually in bed, well covered. Do not use electric blankets and hot-water bottles.
3. Give the casualty something hot and sweet to drink. Do not give alcohol as it exacerbates hypothermia.
4. Call a doctor. If the casualty becomes unconscious, call an ambulance and be prepared to resuscitate.
5. If no indoor shelter is available, protect the casualty with extra garments and blankets and, importantly, ensure that his or her head is covered. Try to find a dry, sheltered position for the casualty and send for help immediately but do not leave the casualty yourself. Give the casualty warm drinks if available and continue to monitor his or her condition.