12 Days of First Aid Tips: Hypothermia
Date: Wednesday, 16 December 2015. -
Blog, First Aid
Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops from the normal level of 37C to below 35C. As hypothermia is a life-threatening condition action must be taken quickly to prevent the situation from getting any worse.
In the 6th instalment of the 12 Days of First Aid Tips, we want to educate you about the symptoms of hypothermia and how you should take action.
Who’s at risk?
Each winter an elderly person dies every seven minutes due to the cold weather. The elderly are more at risk of hypothermia because they are unable to move around and generate heat. Babies are also at risk because they haven’t reached an age in which their bodies can regulate their temperature.
Over 70% of cases in the year 2013-14 were people over the age of 60. However, at this time of year during Christmas and New Year celebrations younger people are more at risk; after drinking large quantities alcohol, we don’t feel the cold and many people have developed hypothermia returning home from a night out only wearing light clothing.
People are also at risk if they don’t wear appropriate clothing when they venture out in snowy conditions. Make sure that you wrap up warm if you’re going skiing or partaking in activities that involve spending long periods of time outdoors.
When someone develops hypothermia they will begin to shake uncontrollably and their breathing will become rapid. Their skin will have a pale appearance and it will be cold to touch. As their temperature decreases and their condition worsens the casualty will become delirious, and they will struggle to breathe or move. Eventually, their condition will deteriorate and they will become unconscious and stop breathing.
How to care for someone experiencing hypothermia
If you suspect that someone has hypothermia you should do the following:
- Move them immediately to somewhere warm
- Remove any wet clothing and dry them – if the casualty is conscious you must ask for permission before doing this
- Wrap them in blankets or coats to keep warm
- If the casualty becomes unconscious and stops breathing, begin CPR and call an ambulance immediately
You should also check in on elderly relatives and neighbours to ensure that they are keeping warm. The government have a Winter Fuel Payment scheme in place to support older people during the winter months.
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