Winter is in full swing, and the temperatures may drop to the extremes. Those working in the outdoors, as well as those less fortunate, may experience cold-related injuries due to Hypothermia.
Hypothermia is when the body loses more heat than it can produce. If left untreated, this can lead to severe injuries and even death.
How do our bodies lose heat?
There are several means by which your body would lose heat, namely;
- Conduction - When heat transfers from one object to another (lying on a cold floor).
- Convection - What heat is transferred by the movement of liquids or gases (a cold wind blowing over you).
- Radiation - This is when heat is lost through an infrared ray (the sun giving the earth heat).
- Evaporation - This is when heat is lost due to the conversion of water to gas (evaporation of sweat).
There are three levels of Hypothermia:
Mild - is the first phase where a patient will begin to shiver, have a higher heart rate, rapid breathing and the blood vessels begin to restrict.
Moderate - is the second phase and is more severe. The heart rate will decrease, a lower breathing rate, decreased gag reflex and lower level of consciousness.
Severe - is the third phase and most serious. This is when the body functions are at their lowest, including coma, no perceptible breathing, very low pulse, and non-reactive pupils.
Here are some first aid guidelines on treating Hypothermia.
- Remove the patient from the cold environment and moving them to a dry and warm location.
- Remove and replace any wet clothing.
- Cover the patient, including their heads with blankets. Using hot water bottles or compresses to heat the patient is advised.
- If the patient is conscious, provide them with warm sweet beverages.
- Monitor the patient's vital signs, should these vital signs diminish, begin CPR.