According to the American Red Cross, hypothermia is caused by low body temperature and may quickly become life threatening. Heat loss can occur if a patient is wet and exceedingly cold. Thin individuals and infants can become dangerously affected by hypothermia within minutes.
Symptoms of hypothermia:
- Feeling cold or shivering
- Disorientation and clumsiness
- General confusion and forgetfulness
- Slurred speech, and slow heartbeat
- Shallow breathe
- Low blood pressure
Mayo Clinic describes the first stages of frostbite as frost nip, which irritates the skin but doesn’t cause severe damage. Frostbite occurs when the skin becomes numb, hard and pale. Slowly warming the hands can help return exposed areas to normal. However, severe frostbite requires medical attention
Symptoms of severe frostbite:
- Prickly, itching or burning
- Joint and muscle stiffness
- Aching and dizziness
According to the National Institutes of Health, 90 percent of frostbite injuries are on the hands and feet. Symptoms of frostbite can occur years later if the same areas are exposed to severe cold causing phantom pain, which usually is a result of nerve damage. Alcohol use and smoking can increase one’s susceptibility to frostbite.
The National Safety Council suggests that getting the victim out of the cold is the first step. Place dry gauze between the toes and fingers if sticking and frostbite has occurred. You can place the affected area in warm water about 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but test the water first. Re-warming can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.
Also suggested by the council is adding insulation – such as blankets, pillows, and towels – beneath and around the victim. Make sure the head is covered and clothing is dry. Keep the victim in a horizontal position if hypothermia occurs.