Treating Hypothermia

Treating Hypothermia
Bryan Stewart

As we move out of the summer months and into the Fall I wanted to write about treating Hypothermia.

The symptoms of hypothermia are usually evident right away as it is caused by a lowering of the core body temperature.  The patient will be cold, showing signs of distress such as shaking, inability to complete sentences, skin cold to the touch, etc.

It is possible to get hypothermia if the air temperature is around 52 degrees Fahrenheit.  Any kind of exposure to the elements with rain, and wind can cause even a small case of hypothermia.  Be aware of the patients activities and environment to help you treat them properly.

If you have access to a thermometer you can check the core temperature of the patient to asses their needs.  Typically in the field you will not have that luxury, so you will need to talk to the patient looking for answers that will help you asses how they became hypothermic.  Did they get wet?  Were they exposed to wind and water?  Were they exerting themselves physically and became cold while in the elements?  Ask good questions to asses your patient.

Look for these symptoms of hypothermia:

Cold/ shivering

Mental function decreased

Hunger/ nausea


This is followed by slurred speech, loss of conscience, and a coma

Body Temperature Reference given in degrees for Fahrenheit

98.6 - No Hypothermia

95- Early symptoms

95-89.6- Beginning stages: Shivering, lethargy, confusion, rapid heart rate.

89-6-82.4-  Moderate Hypothermia: Shivering stops, Increased confusion, slowing heart rate.

82.4 and below- Severe Hypothermia: Coma

Treatment of Hypothermia:

Begin First Aid assessment

Patient should be removed from the cold environment and all wet clothes be removed and replaced with dry clothing.  A change of atmosphere is very important to restore the patients core temperature.

911 should be initiated and the patient prepped for transport.

Monitor the patients breathing, begin CPR if they stop breathing.

The patient should be wrapped and all exposed skin covered.  You want the patient comfortable and you are looking for them to begin to warm up.

Passive warming should begin by wrapping the patient with warm blankets and moved to a warm environment.  This would include having the patient drink warm fluids, and eating warm food/soup.  This should change their condition quickly.

Aggressive warming would include warmed IV fluids, and warm fluids infused into the stomach.

Assess your patient properly to know which level of care they will need, then act appropriately to help.

Having experienced moderate hypothermia in the past, it would have been nice had my companions known how to treat my condition.  Hopefully you will be able to help those around you in the future when the need arises.