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The Deadly Hypothermia

Updated on January 15, 2015
CrisSp profile image

CrisSp is your Emergency Specialist at 37 thousand feet. A writer without a niche. Wonderwoman consumed by wanderlust!

Canadian mittens to keep you warm ~
Canadian mittens to keep you warm ~ | Source

In The News

Toronto: Two men died of extreme cold this last week only. One of them was found in a bus shelter wearing only jeans and shirt and the other one was found in a delivery truck parked in the city’s west end.

The city would usually issue a cold weather alert when temperature is expected to drop from freezing to deep freeze and that’s on a -15°C threshold. The warning is issued in order to allow deployment of additional resources for the homeless and in order for the warming centers and other outreach places to prepare and accommodate people who doesn’t have a place to stay warm.

Canada’s winter is brutal and warming centers would usually open only when the extreme weather alert is issued and that is when the mercury dips down to -15°C or when Environment Canada forecast includes some wind chill factor and precipitation.

It’s bitterly cold the last few days and it will remain so until Mother Nature decides to settle. It is -17°C at the time of this writing but with the wind chill factor, it felt more like -30°C. Grrrr!!!

If you are in a very cold environment (as I am), we are at risk of hypothermia. Staying indoors and in a much warmer place is very much recommended. The homeless and those who work outside are particularly at risk as our infants and seniors.

Oh, hello winter!
Oh, hello winter! | Source

What is hypothermia?

As per medical dictionary, hypothermia is a potentially fatal condition that can occur when body temperature falls below 35°C (95°F).

Our normal body temperature (core) is at 37°C (98.6 °F). When the body’s core temperature drops more than two degrees, body tissues cannot function properly. This condition is called hypothermia or in layman’s term, the exposure to cold.

What leads to hypothermia?

The key factors are:

  1. Wind
  2. Wet
  3. Cold

Winter head gear~
Winter head gear~ | Source

Keep warm

7 ways to keep you warm during the cold winter days:

  1. Bundle up. Dress in layers and make sure to cover every inch of your skin.
  2. Windproof jacket is great, put on a hat to cover your head, most body heat is lost through the head. Wear gloves or mittens and boots. Put on some earmuffs.
  3. Choose wool or synthetic materials.
  4. Stay dry and indoors as much as possible.
  5. Set your heater to at least 21°C particularly if you have infants or elderlies at home. Hypothermia can happen at under 10°C, so it's a threat even with above-average winter temperatures.
  6. Eat high energy food, such as nuts and raisins.
  7. Avoid drinking alcohol.

Smoke, alcohol, coffee or any other drinks with caffeine can increase heat loss. Don’t give the person suffering from hypothermia any of these. ~

No Alcohol!
No Alcohol! | Source

Alcohol consumption

Why should we avoid drinking alcohol in the cold environment?

Drinking alcohol causes our blood vessels to dilate. Thus, giving the illusion that it is providing heat but actually, our blood vessels’ dilation in the skin takes heat from the body's core, thereby, causing a drop on our body temperature and if expose to the cold will make our body susceptible to hypothermia.

As well, the illusion of warmth due to alcohol consumption can cause impaired judgment and poor analytical skills. So, an intoxicated person is more likely to go out in the cold without properly dressing up for the weather exacerbating the chances for hypothermia.

Cover your ears with earmuffs. ~
Cover your ears with earmuffs. ~ | Source

Who can have hypothermia?

Hypothermia is not only related to outdoor. During wintertime and when the environmental temperature gets to the freezing mark, hypothermia is the most obvious thing to look for. Remember, as soon as you begin to shiver in a very cold environment, your first instinct should be, “to avoid or further prevent heat loss”. If not, hypothermia will soon affect you mentally and physically and chances are, you might not be able to think clearly enough to take the right actions.

Hypothermia does not discriminate. Anyone can become hypothermic but the following are especially prone to it:

  1. Infants – because they lose heat more quickly and they do not have the ability to recover from the cold and their bodies do not control heat as well.
  2. Elderly people – because they often have poor circulation and less ability to sense the cold. They can also be on medication that promotes heat loss.
  3. Sick people – because they are most likely to be weak already due to illness.
  4. Teenagers – because they often do not dress for the season and would prefer a more fashionable outfit not minding the cold.

Hypothermia affects us physically, physiologically and mentally. It is sometimes mistaken for other conditions like drunkenness, stroke and drug abuse. Thus, it is important to recognize its signs and symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of hypothermia

Slow and weak
Weak, irregular or absent
Slow and shallow
Slow or absent
Shivering, slurred speech
Shivering violently, clumsy, stumbling, pupils dilated, skin bluish
Shivering has stopped
Mental State
Conscious but withdrawn or disinterested
confused, sleepy, irrational
Source: St John's First Aid Reference Guide

DON’T rub the person’s body to improve the circulation. This will only cause cold blood to flow back to the body core and cool the body further.

Frozen State

When the temperature gets to below zero, there's always a possibility of finding someone to be in a frozen state.

How to recognize when an individual is in a frozen state?

  1. The person is found in a cold place and is not responding.
  2. The jaws and neck are rigid when you try to open the airway.
  3. The skin and deeper tissues are cold and cannot be depressed.
  4. The whole body moves as a solid unit.

What to do?

Do not attempt to conduct first aid for the ABC's (Airway, Breathing & Circulation), if you found a person who is completely frozen. The best thing to do is to transport the person immediately for medical help. However, this should only be done, if it is safe for the rescuer to do so. Otherwise, get yourself to safety and call 911 without delay.

Out in the snow but not without my parka. ~
Out in the snow but not without my parka. ~ | Source

First Aid for Hypothermia

  1. Cover the exposed skin immediately with suitable clothing or covers and make sure that the head is well insulated.
  2. Keep the wind and drafts out by adjusting the individual’s clothing. As much as possible, wrap the person in something windproof – reflective, blankets and plastic garbage bags are effective.
  3. Protect the individual from the wind and if possible take the person indoor immediately or to a covered place like bus shelter.
  4. Remove tight clothing and put the person in a comfortable position.
  5. Keep the individual dry. Wet clothing can cause severe heat loss. If there’s no way to change the wet clothing, put a blanket or dry clothes over the wet clothes. Press as much water out of the wet clothes as possible and bundle the person with something windproof.
  6. Insulate the person from cold objects by sitting the individual on a rolled up jacket or lie on a blanket.
  7. Constantly check the ABC (Airways, Breathing & Circulation) of the person and call for medical help (911) ASAP.

Wear gloves to prevent hypothermia. ~
Wear gloves to prevent hypothermia. ~ | Source

A person suffering from hypothermia should be handled gently. Keep him/her in a horizontal position, if possible. Cold affects the electrical impulses that make the heart beat. As a result, hypothermic person’s heartbeat becomes very delicate. The heart can stop with rough handling. If you are trained and know how to check pulse, continue checking for 30-45 seconds. Remember that the heart may be beating slowly or very faintly and it may take longer to find the pulse.

Let's test your knowledge?

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You can always do something to help!

Today, I went to the Dollar Store to purchase 20 pairs of winter gloves and socks of all sizes. I don’t see any homeless in the small town where I live but there is a drop off for clothing, blankets, etc.. As I always do every year, I’m dropping off some useful stuff there and will leave a couple of gloves and pair of socks in my car, in case I spot a homeless while I drive to work. You can do the same too!

And, when you suspect or detect that a person is suffering from hypothermia, quickly apply the knowledge that you have learned from this hub and save a life!

Hypothermia is fatal!

Hypothermia is a potentially fatal condition. Keep warm and hug your love ones.

When shivering stops. That's the beginning of the end. ~


Author is NOT a medical practitioner. However, she is an Emergency Specialist at 37 Thousand feet, a certified First Aider and holds a degree in Medical Science & Technology. This information is only intended for educational and First Aid purposes. Call 911, if you suspect or detect Hypothermic condition.

Copyright@CrisSp~TM/01-2015. "Fearless but not heartless!" ~

© 2015 CrisSp


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    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      aviannovice: Thank you.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Elsie: Thank you for your most engaging comment. I'm glad you find this hub useful. Stay warm.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Freezing is a horrible thing. This is a necessary story that needs to be distributed more during this time of year. If it helps one person , it has done the job.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      4 years ago from New Zealand

      Very interesting and helpful information about hypothermia.

      I always have a cold body, poor circulation, love the summer, people don't understand how I can wear a cardigan in the hot weather, especially in the supermarket when getting the groceries, I find that too cold.

      I don't enjoy winter, can't keep warm. Being a farmers wife I find in the cold weather it is better to put warm clothes on and get outside, keep moving, my body feels a lot better doing that than sitting by a fire and trying to warm up that's only temporary.

      All the best for 2015, happy days writing.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      FlourishAnyway: You're lucky! I'm not really a fan of winter and I can't wait for Spring to come. :)

    • travmaj profile image


      4 years ago from australia

      How sad this is and thank you for bringing it to our attention. I really can't imagine the intense cold you describe. I'm sitting here in 30 degrees. When the temperature rises to 40 and over it becomes scary with the threat of bush fires. What a world! Keep warm, spring will be on the way...

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Good information, Chris. It's been awhile since I've lived in a very cold climate (Maine, northern Ohio), but the cold can be brutal.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      ahorseback: Thank you. Stay warm and as and twinkle from the sky. ~

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Genna East: Thank you. I appreciate your very engaging comment. You see, every little thing counts and thank God for the Dollar Stores. Those gloves and socks are really very useful. I think it is much better to hand them something that will be useful for them instead of money but then again a buck or two, I think should be fine.

      Love and Twinkle from the sky~

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Bless you for buying gloves and stuff for the homeless , you are an awesome soul ! But we already know that ! Having felt the effects of Hypo- before I know the first phases of it , the uncontrolled shivering ,the losing of the normal thought process , its an ugly way to suffer ! We here in northern Vermont know the cold well although I find as I age the effects of the extreme cold get to me faster . I work outside a lot so its important to understand how Hypothermia works , thank you again for the reminders ! I always vote your hubs up- up and away !

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      vkwok: I think you're lucky to be in a place where the weather is very pleasant almost all year round. However, it's always good to know what to do in case of emergency and I hope I have provided you with some really helpful tips in this hub. Take care.

      Love and Twinkle from the sky~

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      pstraubie48: First off, thank you...angels are always welcome! Good thinking to stay inside the car and glad that they safely made.

      Love and Twinkle from the sky~

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      BlossomSB: Around the globe, it is mostly "911" for emergency including USA and here in Canada as well as some Latin American countries like Costa Rica, Paraguay, Uruguay. However, it also differs from other countries as in the European Union, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, which uses "112". In Bahrain, where I've lived most of my life, it is "999". Some Asian countries like the Philippines, uses, "117". In the UK, it is either "999" or "112". Now, isn't that interesting? Maybe, it's time we make it universal. :) Thank you for reading and leaving such engaging comments. Cheers!

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      RTalloni: Thank you. I'm glad you find this useful.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Faith Reaper: Yes, that's true...heat escapes from the head and that's why it's important to protect our heads. Thank you for your generous comments, voting, tweeting, pinning and sharing. You're awesome!

      Love and Twinkle from the sky~

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Although my area of New England has seen -6 F this winter – which sounds pretty cold – yet I can’t imagine what it would be like to sink an extra ten degrees! I often think about the homeless and wonder how they can possibly survive out there. There are local shelters, and we contribute food stuffs and blankets, but I know there are others who must be suffering terribly. Just the other day, I saw a homeless man walk into the road from behind a house in our neighborhood. The house is vacant, and up for sale. I was so annoyed with myself that I didn’t have anything in the car to give him. He was pushing a shopping cart which held two plastic bags that no doubt carried his belongings. Your idea of having extra pairs of gloves and socks, etc., in the car is wonderful. I will stock up on these tomorrow. Very good article!

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 

      4 years ago from Hawaii

      It always pays to be prepared. Thanks for sharing this hub, CrisSp.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      AudreyHowitt: Thank you.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      CatherineGiordano: I'd love to live in a much warmer place and will probably move when I retire. For now, I have no choice but to embrace the cold and try to enjoy the winter scenery. I'm glad this hub came handy to you and to answer your question, yes, heat from the bodies of others is great conductor and effective. The goal is to avoid heat from escaping and so huddle/cuddle will be of great help. Thank you.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Smilealot: It is indeed sad and that is why we should all try to help and prevent it from happening as much as possible. You're welcome and thank you for stopping by. Take care now and stay warm.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      MizBejabbers: Many people actually misconstrued the effect of alcohol consumption in the cold environment and that is why it's good to know the fact behind it. Thank you for your comments, voting up and sharing. Update: 1. Three men now died of hypothermia in Toronto. 2. I gave my spare gloves away to the bus driver who lost his right hand gloves somewhere while fixing passenger's luggage underneath the bus compartment. :)

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      That was very interesting. Thank you for an interesting article. I'm not sure which countries have 911 as the emergency number, but here it's triple zero, or 112 on our mobile phones.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      billybuc: I fly away...that's what I do! That's why I like my Southern and the Caribbean destinations specially in the wintertime. Thank you for visiting Bill.

      Love and twinkle from the sky~

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Ericdierker: No, it isn't cold Eric, it is freezing! :) Yup, hearing that two homeless people died (currently 3) because of the cold is sad and that actually prompted me to write about it. You're lucky California's weather is mostly pleasant. Enjoy it!

      Love and twinkle from the sky~

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Jodah: Thank you. -4 is still cold but not bad. It is the wind chill that is a killer. Glad you find this hub useful and that you enjoyed it. I appreciate the vote. Enjoy the warmer weather that you currently have down under.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      bravewarrior: Thank you. You're lucky to be living in Florida. When I was young I always dreamed of palm trees and green grass. I don't know how I ended up with pine trees and snow. :)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      4 years ago from sunny Florida

      This is such crucial information to know. When we lived in South Dakota we had the crippling winters that brought hypothermia warnings.

      When our guys would go on hunting trips in winter, they were always cautioned to be prepared in the event they were stranded in a blizzard. And we are so thankful. One trip they were stranded a truck as it would not start. They were prepared though and were able to stay warm enough to avoid any of them having frozen body parts. One important thing they did even though it is tempting not to do this is: they stayed in the truck till daylight and a vehicle happened by.

      Voted up +++

      Angels are on the way to you this morning . ps

    • RTalloni profile image


      4 years ago from the short journey

      Useful information in a very nicely done hub. I learned some important new-to-me facts that I am glad to be aware of in case of need. Thanks much for putting this crucial post together for others' benefit.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      4 years ago from southern USA

      Excellent article and thanks for the heads-up about what not to do! As I sure would have gotten that wrong. The only thing I remembered before reading this was to keep the heart area or chest area warm and our head, as heat escapes our bodies through our heads, but that may not be true.

      Up +++ tweeting, pinning and sharing

      I love your idea about going to the dollar store to buy such items to donate.

      For some reason, I always thought you lived down in the islands somewhere ... brrr now!

      (((Hugs))) and stay warm ...oh, I love your parka!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      4 years ago from California

      Very useful article! Really useful right now!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I'm so glad I live in Orlando Florida. We think it is cold if it gets down to 50 degrees. Still sometimes we have a freeze and the homeless are at risk. I learned stuff I didn't know. Would a group hug help? Could the heat from the bodies of others help warm a person up. I love your photos. You are a great photographer. Voted up and sharing.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      It is really sad hearing about the homeless freezing to death, it shouldn't happen in this day and age but obviously it does. Thank you for this really interesting and informative hub:-))

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Anna Haven: I was watching the news and checking the weather forecast when I heard that two men died because of the cold. That prompted me to write about it. As of today, we have a total of 3 already--all homeless. *sad* Thank you for stopping by Anna. You stay warm.

    • CrisSp profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      DDE: Thank you. I'm glad you learned something and hopefully we all can save a life.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 years ago from Beautiful South

      That is a very good idea to carry extra gloves and scarves to give to a homeless person. We have lots of homeless here, and I pass the Salvation Army HQ every morning and see them lined up to get their breakfasts. The alcohol part is interesting. Old time Southerners have always believed that alcohol will warm them up, and I saw my Daddy take a drink many times when he came in out of the cold. I guess the alcoholics do add disproportionately to the deaths of homeless people. I hate the cold and wish I could move farther South. Voted up++

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know how you northerners do it. I spent a year in Alaska and it was face that every winter would just be too much for this old boy.

      Good information...stay warm my friend.

      hugs from Oly

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Brrr, this was one cold hub! Excellent handling of an important subject. How sad some people die of it right in the midst of so many people who would and could help. I am going to put on a sweater now.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very in-depth and useful hub Cris. Even though it never gets cold enough here to snow it gets down to about -4C a couple of days during Winter. I enjoyed this. Voted up.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 years ago from Central Florida

      Cris, this is very good information to put out this time of year. Living in Florida, I don't have much of a threat of hypothermia, although sometimes temperatures dip below freezing.

      Keeping warm clothing in your car for under dressed homeless folks is a great idea. It's nice to see someone looking out for others.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 

      4 years ago from Scotland

      I didn't know a lot of the information you told us, it is good to know as you never how when you may need it. Helpful advice as well on the different ways we can all help.

      Interesting and useful hub and really diverse from your lovely poetry. :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I learned a lot from you. An informative and interesting topic. Voted up, useful and interesting.


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