Shivering is likely the first thing you'll notice as the temperature starts to drop because it's your body's automatic defense against cold temperature — an attempt to warm itself.
Signs and symptoms of mild hypothermia include:
- Faster breathing
- Trouble speaking
- Slight confusion
- Lack of coordination
- Increased heart rate
Moderate to severe hypothermia
As your body temperature drops, signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hypothermia include:
- Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Confusion and poor decision-making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Lack of concern about one's condition
- Progressive loss of consciousness
- Weak pulse
- Slow, shallow breathing
Someone with hypothermia usually isn't aware of his or her condition because the symptoms often begin gradually. Also, the confused thinking associated with hypothermia prevents self-awareness. The confused thinking can also lead to risk-taking behavior.
Hypothermia in infants
Typical signs of hypothermia in an infant include:
- Bright red, cold skin
- Very low energy
- A weak cry
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 generally be fine for a younger or healthier adult. This can occur in a poorly heated home or in an air-conditioned home. Signs and symptoms of this type of hypothermia may not be as obvious.
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, moving them carefully and slowly. Jarring movements can trigger dangerous irregular heartbeats. Carefully remove wet clothing, and cover him or her in layers of blankets while you wait for emergency help to arrive.
Jun. 18, 2014
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