Normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Hypothermia is diagnosed when body temperature reaches 95°F (35°C) or lower. Only a special rectal thermometer that reads low temperatures can confirm that someone has this condition.
It is important to act quickly if you suspect that you or someone else has hypothermia:
Get to a warm, sheltered area.
Remove any wet clothing.
Use an electric blanket to warm the core of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin.
If no electric blanket is available, use skin-to-skin contact under loose blankets or towels.
Give warm beverages to drink. Do not give alcoholic beverages.
Get medical attention as soon as possible.
A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and appear to have no pulse. Medical attention is important because, in some cases, people can be saved even though they appear dead.
If you are planning to spend time outside, take the following precautions:
Be aware of the weather.
Wear the right clothing:
Hat, scarf, and mittens
Several layers of loose-fitting clothing
Water-resistant coat and shoes
Wind-resistant outer layer
Go inside when you are shivering or if you are wet.
Do not drink alcohol.
Eat well-balanced meals and stay hydrated.
Also, take special precautions with older adults, babies, and young children. If rooms are not kept warm enough, they can be affected by hypothermia even if they remain indoors.
Hypothermia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/cold-injury/hypothermia. Updated April 2016. Accessed September 29, 2017.
Winter weather FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/faq.asp. Updated November 26, 2013. Accessed September 29, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2014
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