It’s that time of year again when it’s weather warnings galore and snow forecasts daily on the news! You daren’t venture outside without the full hat, scarf, gloves and coat combo. But is it enough?
In the colder months, Hypothermia poses a much higher risk. And not just for those that you’d expect, either. You assume those at the highest risk are those with frequent exposure to working for long periods outside in these conditions, walkers and skiers. But it is actually disabled, infants and the elderly that are most vulnerable this time of year. Even when indoors, hypothermia can be caused by being in a cold room, or being inactive for a prolonged length of time. Hypothermia is when the internal temperature of the body drops below the normal level.
So how can we look out for our loved ones, and prevent Hypothermia in these cold winter conditions?
Even indoors, wearing lots of thin layers traps heat. Ensure that you eat regularly, eat plenty of carbohydrates as these will provide good fuel for the body to keep itself warm. Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, as they can make the hypothermia worse. When children are running about throwing snowballs, they don’t always realise how cold they have become, so keep an eye on them. If you have a baby, make sure you have a room thermometer in the room where they sleep and monitor the temperature.
Possible Signs, Symptoms & Clues:
- Shivering gives an indication of how bad hypothermia is. If a casualty stops shivering when asked, hypothermia is generally mild, but if they can’t control their shivering, it has become worse. If this is the case, hypothermia needs urgent medical treatment.
- The casualty may feel cold and have paler than usual skin
- Confusion, low energy levels, drowsy, slurred speech and memory loss
- As hypothermia becomes worse, shivering may stop
- Children and babies may be quieter than usual and refuse to feed
- If untreated, hypothermia may lead to possible unconsciousness
Treatment for Hypothermia:
- The casualty is best indoors, somewhere warm, but don’t warm them up too quickly.
- Remove any wet clothing, give them additional dry layers of clothing and blankets.
- Share your own body heat with them, hugging them helps warm them up and reassures them.
- It’s a good idea to keep the person active if possible, but keep it slow and gentle, certainly not to the point where they start sweating.
- With all hypothermic casualties there is an increased risk of heart problems, so keep their actions and movements slow, don’t rub or massage them.
- Use warm drinks (no alcohol), and meals to provide heat and energy.
So stay safe this winter, look after your vulnerable loved ones, wrap up warm, and keep active (even indoors!)
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