What is Hypothermia?
Whether you’re dealing with extreme heat or extreme cold, temperature extremes are detrimental to your body. Hypothermia refers to experiencing extremely low body temperature caused by prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures. The longer your body is under exposure to the cold, the faster it loses heat. Low body temperatures may severely impact the brain, making it difficult for you to think or handle hypothermia effectively. Hypothermia is most common under freezing temperatures, but it may also occur when wet from rain or submerged in water. Anytime you are in cold temperatures or water, be mindful of the potential for hypothermia.
Certain areas of the world are more prone to hypothermia than others as these regions fall to freezing temperatures, such as Canada, Alaska, Russia and so forth. So, this article may prove fruitful and help you save a life if you live in or plan to travel these areas.
History of Hypothermia
For thousands of years, people worldwide knew about death caused by exposure to cold temperatures. Clinically did not recognize the health concern until halfway through the 20th century. Then, it was only recognized in extreme conditions like immersed in snow or cold water. Determining hypothermia required measuring the body’s temperature, which was not available until the late 1800s — routinely in the early 1900s.
In the 1700s, James Curry and John Hunter performed physiological experiments, determining the existence of hypothermia. More detailed physiological experiments occurred in the early 20th century. Interestingly, hypothermia therapy for malignancy and anesthesia happened in the 1930s and 40s. Therefore, the medical profession familiarising itself with the importance of measuring core temperatures became imperative. (x)
Stages of Hypothermia
Any drop in body temperature below 35 degrees Celsius or 95 Fahrenheit causes hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs in three stages. The phases occur as follows:
First stage: The individual experiences shivering and reduced circulation.
Second stage: The individual undergoes a slow, weak pulse, slowed breathing, lack of coordination, irritability, confusion and sleepy behavior.
Advanced stage: The individual goes through slow or weak respiration and pulse. During this stage, the individual may also lose consciousness. (x)
The symptoms of hypothermia differ in adults and babies. In adults, some symptoms may include shivering, confusion and fumbling hands. In babies, the symptoms may involve a cold, reddish skin and very low energy. Both may cause literally freezing to death.
Difference Between Hypothermia and Hyperthermia
It is also important to note the difference between hyperthermia and hypothermia. In hyperthermia, the body temperature’s set point remains unchanged, whereas, in hypothermia, the body’s temperature significantly decreases below the threshold at which metabolism is possible.
Being able to notice the symptoms of hypothermia will not only save your life but other lives as well. The symptoms are relatively straightforward, so keep them in mind when you are in areas with freezing temperatures or circumstances. Some prominent hypothermia symptoms include:
Shivering is one of the first symptoms of hypothermia because it is your body’s way of increasing body temperature to warm up. Surprisingly, in the case of severe hypothermia, such as the advanced stage, shivering is absent. Thus, if you are still shivering during hypothermia, this sign is a good sign that the body is still functioning enough to try to produce body heat. (x)
- Slow Breathing
Slowed breathing during hypothermia is also one of the first symptoms. Slowed breathing is one of the body’s mechanisms to conserve its energy. According to research, the affected area, the lung, specifically the ventral medulla of the spinal cord, have little effect on the ability to regulate breathing. Even when this area is warm, breathing remains slow. There is a direct relation between neural functioning and slowed breathing. You must restore neural functioning by warming the entire body before breathing becomes regular. (x)
- Weak Pulse
A weakened pulse occurs during stage two of hypothermia. Although a weak pulse conserves the body’s energy, it responds to your body’s inability to pump oxygen throughout the body as the body temperature is too cold. Below 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius, there is a severe risk for cardiac arrest. Even simply rolling a person over may cause him or her to enter cardiac arrest. Be very careful when assisting a hypothermic individual. (x)
- Lack of Energy
If you have a lack of energy associated with unusual fatigue, sleep loss and negative energy balance as far as hypothermia, you will notice a lack of power from your body with hypothermic. It’s because reduced tissue insulation causes blunted metabolic heat production, resulting in sleepiness. Energy typically returns when tissue insulation (warmth) becomes restored. (x)
- Loss of Consciousness
Loss of consciousness is one of the most severe symptoms of hypothermia and typically occurs in the advanced stage. It can cause cardiac arrest or coma. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., precisely because of cardiac arrest. Out of 295,000 individuals who experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital, only 10-20 percent survive. Thus, cardiac arrest as a response to hypothermia can be a deadly consequence. (x)
Other Symptoms of Hypothermia
Hypothermia is more than just a little shiver. Older adults with inappropriate food, clothing or shelter are at risk of hypothermia. Babies sleeping in cold bedrooms and individuals who remain outdoors for long periods of time are also highly vulnerable. Additional symptoms for adults include confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. For babies, hypothermia will look very different, usually shown by bright red, cold skin and a lack of energy.
Understanding what causes hypothermia will help you avoid extremely low body temperature, thus, saving your life or the lives of others. Some causes of hypothermia include:
Overexposure to Cold Weather
Cold weather can cause a variety of conditions, including frostnip, frostbite, chilblains and, of course, hypothermia. The skin typically remains at a constant temperature, 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 Celsius, in order to circulate blood flow. Overexposure to cold weather for prolonged periods of time causes the skin’s temperature to decrease, thus leading to hypothermia. (x)
Falling into Cold Water
Falling into cold water is not just something that happens in the movies. When it does, whether an individual remains in the water or someone pulls them out, both can lead to hypothermia. Often falling into cold water occurs far outside city boundaries. In this case, it may take emergency help a while to arrive. It is essential to know some of the lifesaving methods in case of an emergency. These methods include:
- Move the individual to a warm, dry place
- Remove wet clothing
- Cover the entire body head to toe with blankets
- Place the individual on top of a blanket to insulate them from the ground
- Provide skin to skin contact (if possible, this is the most warming)
- Offer warm drinks, not including caffeine or alcohol (x)
Exhaustion may also cause hypothermia, also known as exertional fatigue and in combination with cold weather, can cause hypothermia. When performing extreme activities outdoors in cold weather, individuals may experience “hiker’s hypothermia,” which is more of a result of exhaustion as opposed to cold water or other freezing properties. (x)
Hypothermia is a unique condition in that it may occur slowly or immediately. It may also develop indoors or outdoors. Other causes of hypothermia may include wearing improper clothing for the cold, staying in the cold for too long, being unable to change out of wet clothes, or living in a house that is too cold.
Hypothermia Remedies and Supplements
Having hypothermia or helping someone who has hypothermia, act fast. Call emergency services right away. It’s essential to reduce the severity of the effects once the emergency is over. Though time is the essence, check with your doctor as soon as possible whenever you take new supplements. Then, take these actions:
Chamomile is among the several herbal remedies that may help reduce the effects of hypothermia. Similar to ginger and green tea are all common examples of herbal teas that can increase the body temperature and relax its state of shock. The optimal dosage of chamomile is 800 mg taken twice daily. (x)
- Panax Ginseng
A study performed on rats showed that ginseng stimulated the nervous system and basal metabolic rate when the body temperature went into a state of hypothermia. (x)
A study performed on rats proved that pepper has the thermogenic potential and can help improve cognitive performance caused by exposure to cold. (x) The ancient Indian medicine called Ayurveda supports several herbs to help treat hypothermia. Cinnamon is one of them, recommending to drink it as a hot tea. (x)
Like pepper and used jointly can assist in improving cognitive behavior when exposed to the cold. (x)
- Drink Warm Liquids
Drinking warm liquids is an effective way to treat hypothermia because it warms up the body from the inside out. The only liquid you should not drink warm or otherwise is alcohol. (x)
- Sit by Fire
It’s no surprise that sitting by a fire is a simple remedy for hypothermia. The freezing nature of hypothermia serves as a polar opposite to a fire, so fire will have a melting effect on your body. The center of a simple paper fire is typically 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than warm enough to heat your entire body quickly.
- Cover Up with Blankets
Although it is a myth that the most heat escapes through the top of your head, you should cover your entire body from head to toe with blankets. This tactic will keep the most heat and warm up your body the fastest. In truth, heat becomes lost anywhere there is skin exposure, so be sure to use plenty of blankets and cover every inch of skin.
Other Remedies for Hypothermia
Other remedies for hypothermia revolve around prevention. If you keep your body warm enough, you will never be at risk of hypothermia in the first place. When spending time in cold weather, try to:
- Wear a hat or headgear to prevent heat from escaping out the top of the head.
- Avoid activities that cause excessive sweating. In fact, it does not make the body warm. Instead, it makes the clothes wet, which is a bad combination in cold weather.
- Wear plenty of layers. Keep layers loose on the inside and water-resistant on the outside.
- Stay dry. Remove wet clothing as soon as possible and wear water-resistant clothing.
Where to Buy Supplements for Hypothermia?
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The Bottom Line
Hypothermia can occur indoors and when temperatures are not entirely freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Celsius). Many people may exaggerate that they feel hypothermia when they are cold, but actual hypothermia is excessive and accompanies physical symptoms that manifest within the body. These symptoms include shivering, slow breathing, a weak pulse, and even loss of consciousness, which may eventually result in cardiac arrest if you are regularly in cold weather areas. It is essential to know how to prevent hypothermia for yourself and how to assist others who may experience it.
If you suspect you or someone you are with has hypothermia, you need to take immediate action. Call emergency services and then take actions described in this article. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.