Hypothermia is a medical condition where the body’s temperature drops below normal, which is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If left untreated a person can go into shock, fall asleep, go into a coma and even die.
There are several risk factors that can result in hypothermia. Being exposed to excessive cold temperatures for an extended period of time is a common risk.
Other risks can include not wearing proper clothing to protect the body from cold temperatures and being exposed in cold water for a prolonged period of time. Also clothing that becomes wet and damp from cold rain or accidently falling into cold water increases the risks for hypothermia.
The most common cause of hypothermia is overexposure to cold temperatures. What happens is the body is losing heat faster than the body can produce enough heat to keep the body warm.
Extreme cold weather conditions as experienced in the winter months can cause hypothermia, but because a person’s body composition, include body fat, mass, age and general health can all be influences that can lead to hypothermia.
Continued exposure will cause the body’s organs to start to preserve heat and protect the vital organs and brain. Eventually, as exposure continues, the organs will lose heat and the body starts shutting down completely.
Even in early spring there can be cool temperatures that can lead to hypothermia. Elderly people, infants and toddlers can be at a higher risk for mild cases of hypothermia.
If the indoor temperature of a home is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit as a result of not running the furnace to heat the home, extended exposure without proper clothing can cause hypothermia.
Toddlers and infants should never be left sleeping in cold homes or bedrooms as their bodies can quickly lose heat faster than a normal adult.
Symptoms of hypothermia can include sleepiness, shivering, weakness, slowed heart rate, fainting, breathing that is shallow and slowed, confusion, problems speaking, a general loss of coordination, lack of energy and red colored skin. In extreme cases of hypothermia a person can fall asleep and never wake up.
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