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How To Deal With Hypothermia In A Survival Situation
With the weather getting colder in the Northern Hemisphere I think it’s the right time to give you guys they run down on one of winter biggest killers, Hypothermia.
When exposed to prolonged cold weather a person may become both mentally and physically numb, thus neglecting essential tasks or requiring more time and
effort to achieve them.
Under some conditions (particularly cold water immersion), even a person in excellent physical condition may die in a matter of minutes.
The destructive influence of cold on the body is called hypothermia.
This means bodies lose heat faster than they can produce it.
Hypothermia can occur from exposure to temperatures either above or below freezing, especially from immersion in cold water, wet-cold conditions,
or from the effect of wind.
Physical exhaustion and insufficient food intake may also increase the risk of hypothermia.
General cooling of the entire body to a temperature below 95°F is caused by continued exposure to low or rapidly dropping temperatures, cold moisture, snow, or ice.
Fatigue, poor physical condition, dehydration, faulty blood circulation, alcohol or other drug use, trauma, and immersion can cause hypothermia.
Remember, cold may affect the body systems slowly and almost without notice.
Anyone exposed to low temperatures for extended periods may suffer ill effects even if they are well protected by clothing.
Signs and Symptoms
As the body cools, there are several stages of progressive discomfort and impairment. A sign that is noticed immediately is shivering.
Shivering is an attempt by the body to generate heat and the pulse is faint or very difficult to detect.
People with temperatures around 90°F may be drowsy and mentally slow.
Their ability to move may be hampered, stiff, and uncoordinated, but they may be able to
Their speech may be slurred.
As the body temperature drops further, shock becomes evident as the person’s eyes assume a glassy state, breathing becomes slow and shallow, and the pulse becomes weaker or absent.
The person becomes very stiff and uncoordinated.
Unconsciousness may follow quickly.
As the body temperature drops even lower, the extremities freeze, and a deep (or core) body temperature (below 85°F) increases the risk of irregular heart action.
This irregular heart action or heart standstill can result in sudden death.
First Aid Measures
Except in cases of the most severe hypothermia (marked by coma or unconsciousness and a weak pulse), first aid measures for hypothermia are directed towards protecting the casualty from further loss of body heat.
For the casualty who is conscious, first aid measures are directed at rewarming the body evenly and without delay.
Provide heat by using a hot water bottle or field expedient or another person’s body heat (snuggling can save lives!!)
When using a hot water bottle or field expedient (canteen filled with warm water), the bottle or canteen must be wrapped in cloth prior to placing it next to the casualty.
This will reduce the chance of burning the casualty’s skin.
Always call or send for help as soon as possible and protect the casualty immediately with dry clothing or a sleeping bag.
Then, move him to a warm place.
In the case of an accidental breakthrough into ice water, or other hypothermic accident, strip the casualty of wet clothing immediately and bundle them into a sleeping bag.
Rescue breathing should be started at once if the casualty’s breathing has stopped or is irregular or shallow.
Warm liquids (NOT HOT) may be given gradually if the casualty is conscious.
DO NOT force liquids on an unconscious or semiconscious casualty because they may choke.
The casualty should be transported on a stretcher because the exertion of walking may aggravate circulation problems.
Hypothermia is life threatening until normal body temperature has been restored.
The first aid measures for a casualty with severe hypothermia are based upon the following principles: attempt to avoid further heat loss, handle the casualty gently, and transport the casualty as soon as possible to the nearest medical facilty.
If at all possible, the casualty should be evacuated by medical personnel.
Rewarming a severely hypothermic casualty is extremely dangerous in the field due to the possibility of such complications as rewarming, shock and disturbances in the rhythm of the heartbeat.
These conditions require treatment by medical personnel.
Resuscitation of casualties with hypothermic complications is
difficult if not impossible to do outside of an Hospital setting.
The casualty is unable to generate their own body heat.
Therefore, merely placing them in a blanket or sleeping bag is not sufficient (if you put them in a sleep bag then put either a hot water bottle in with them of climb in yourself and huddle together to share body heat).