Shivering is your body's automatic defense against cold temperature — an attempt to warm itself. Constant shivering is a key sign of hypothermia. Signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hypothermia include:

  • Shivering
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Stumbling
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking
  • Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Apathy or lack of concern about one's condition
  • Progressive loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, shallow breathing

A person with hypothermia usually isn't aware of his or her condition, because the symptoms often begin gradually and because the confused thinking associated with hypothermia prevents self-awareness.

Hypothermia not necessarily related to the outdoors

Hypothermia isn't always the result of exposure to extremely cold outdoor temperatures. An older person may develop mild hypothermia after prolonged exposure to indoor temperatures that would be tolerable to a younger or healthier adult — for example, temperatures in a poorly heated home or in an air-conditioned home.

Symptoms of mild hypothermia not related to extreme cold exposure are nearly identical to those of more severe hypothermia, but may be much less obvious. Signs and symptoms of mild hypothermia may include:

  • Shivering
  • Faster breathing
  • Trouble speaking
  • Confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure

Hypothermia in infants

Typical signs of hypothermia in an infant include:

  • Bright red, cold skin
  • Very low energy

When to see a doctor

Call 911 or your local emergency number if you see someone with signs of hypothermia or if you suspect a person has had unprotected or prolonged exposure to cold weather or water. If possible take the person inside, remove wet clothing, and cover him or her in layers of blankets.

Jun. 08, 2011