Course Information Course Category: Safety Course Credit: 30 minutes ORACLE course code SAFI Author: Lynne Presley, Training Administration, Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections Technical Consultant: Mike Jackson, M.D. Medical Director, Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections Contact: Course Published: January 2004
Course Objectives At the end of this course, students will be able to: Recognize the physical symptoms of hypothermia Identify first aid procedures for hypothermia
Introduction The human body is a miraculous organism, able to adapt to a variety of adverse conditions. Unfortunately, environmental extremes may interfere with the body’s ability to adapt. When people are exposed to cold temperatures (relative to the normal body temperature of around 98.6 degrees), the cold can have adverse effects on the human body, which can result in a cold exposure injury known as hypothermia.
The Danger What’s frightening about hypothermia is that the body core temperature need only fall below about 95 degrees to overwhelm the temperature- controlling mechanism, making the body unable to re- warm itself without outside assistance. This can lead to permanent injury and even death.
Types: Acute and Subacute Hypothermia can either be sudden (acute) or gradual (subacute). This means that we may not be aware enough to know that we’re getting into a dangerous and life- threatening condition. For example, most people understand that falling into freezing water (an acute situation) and not being able to get out can easily lead to death. However, other people who may think they are warm enough – swimmers, hunters, skiers, mountain climbers, and those who work outdoors in cold temperatures – can also succumb to hypothermia when they’re exposed to cold temperatures for long periods (subacute situations), without taking time to re-warm their bodies.
Types: Acute and Subacute Remember... Hypothermia can come on slowly and progress to a life- threatening situation!
Recognizing Hypothermia This chart can be helpful in determining if hypothermia is present. Most people in a work or recreational environment won’t be able to measure body temperature, but the other signs and symptoms are obvious to the casual observer. Body Temp (in degrees) Degree of Hypothermia Signs/SymptomsConsciousness MildShivering; loss of coordination Slightly withdrawn or confused 81-94ModerateLethargicSleepy or irrational 80 and belowSevereWeak pulse; irregular heart beat; cardiac arrest Unconscious
Treating Mild Hypothermia When a person shows the signs or symptoms of hypothermia, it’s necessary to remove the person from the cold environment, to stop further loss of body heat. Just getting out of the swimming pool or lake (yes, mild hypothermia can occur even in the summer – remember that the water is usually cooler than our body), going indoors, or wrapping up in a blanket or coat is usually enough to reverse mild hypothermia.
Treating Moderate Hypothermia For moderate hypothermia, an external heat source should be added. Getting the person out of the cold environment, turning on a heater, replacing wet clothes with dry, and giving warm fluids to drink (but NOT liquor) will usually be enough. NOTE: Once the victim is re-warmed, it’s a good idea to take him/her to the doctor to make sure that the victim has made a full recovery.
Treating Severe Hypothermia Severe hypothermia is especially dangerous due to the possibility of re-warming shock, which is a condition that can result in immediate death. The goal in treating severe hypothermia is to prevent further heat loss, stabilize the body temperature, handle gently, and transport to a hospital. Remember: Do not waste time – get the victim to an emergency room as soon as possible!
Preventing Hypothermia Do not ignore the outdoors temperature. Whether it’s freezing or just briskly chilly, our bodies can become too cold to effectively perform the most simple tasks or recognize that we are becoming victims of hypothermia. Most of us have been cold enough to shiver, which is a result of mild hypothermia. Usually we’re able to re-warm ourselves and the condition does not progress into the moderate stage. It’s always possible, though, for the condition to worsen. How can you prevent this? Avoid overexposure to cold temperatures, and take time to re-warm yourself if you become too cold!
Conclusion Thank you for completing this course. Be sure to fill out the course roster and give it to your training officer so that you’ll receive training credit. Click here to exit course