The signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hypothermia include shivering, unconsciousness, low heart rate, diminished respiratory rate, dilated pupils, and decreased neurological function.
Before treating hypothermia yourself, you should first call 911 if possible. Before EMS arrives, however, there are some things you should know to do, and not do. The main thing you should not do, which is often what most people think will be beneficial, is to massage the affected area as this can cause tissue damage. Be sure to gently handle any affected limbs that are affected. If possible, remove any wet clothing from the person, and replace the wet clothes with dry clothes, or simply put the person in a dry sleeping bag. If the persons toes are affected, attempt to separate each toe with cotton swabs or gauze padding in between each toe. If the person is capable of talking and swallowing, encourage them to drink sweet liquids, preferably warm ones, to prevent hypoglycemia, a common problem associated with hypothermia.
Hopefully by this point EMS has arrived and can take over. Next week we will look at what treatment options are available for hypothermia in a clinical setting, as well as treatment for frost bite. Everyone dress warmly if you are in freezing weather, and enjoy this holiday season!
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or email@example.com.