Prolonged exposure to the cold will eventually use up your body's stored energy and can result in hypothermia - a serious, life-threatening health problem.
Though hypothermia is often associated with outdoor activities, it’s also a risk for infants and elderly people, whose homes should be kept at a minimum of 68 degrees.
“Hypothermia is especially dangerous once a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit because organs like the heart and brain begin to be affected. This
can cause a person to not think clearly or be able to move well,” says
Jeremy Baird, DO, an osteopathic emergency medicine physician from Cincinnati.
Recognizing the Signs of Hypothermia
Warning signs of hypothermia include:
Confusion and memory loss.
Weak pulse and slow heartbeat.
Very slow and shallow breathing.
Take the person’s temperature if you notice these signs, and if it is below 95 degrees, seek medical attention immediately.
Until medical care is available, Dr. Baird recommends the following to prevent further heat loss:
Remove any wet clothes and wrap the victim in a warm blanket.
Warm the center of the body first by applying an electric heating pad (set on low) or a hot water bottle to the person’s stomach and chest.
If the victim is adequately alert, give them small quantities of warm food or drink.
Everyone is susceptible to hypothermia, but infants and the elderly as well as people without adequate shelter are especially at risk. To help prevent hypothermia:
Dress in warm layers and change out of wet clothes promptly.
If you must go out in wet, windy weather, dress appropriately to stay dry and avoid losing body heat.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your wellbeing. They listen and partner with you to help you get healthy and stay well.