(Extended Exposure to Cold)
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.
- What is hypothermia?
- What are the risk factors for hypothermia?
- What body parts are more susceptible to hypothermia?
- What causes hypothermia?
- What are the signs and symptoms of hypothermia?
- When should I call my doctor for hypothermia?
- How is hypothermia diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for hypothermia?
- Home remedies for hypothermia
- What items should I have to be prepared to prevent hypothermia?
- What is the prognosis for hypothermia?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is defined as a body temperature (core, or internal body temperature) of less than 95 F (35 C). Usually, hypothermia occurs when the body's temperature regulation is overwhelmed by a cold environment. However, in the medical and lay literature there are essentially two major classifications, accidental hypothermia and intentional hypothermia. Accidental hypothermia usually occurs from an exposure to cold that results in lowering the body temperature while intentional hypothermia is body temperature lowering induced usually for a medical procedure. This article will focus on accidental hypothermia. Hypothermia is a medical emergency that, when quickly and appropriately treated, people can recover with little or no consequences.
Body temperature, when discussing hypothermia, is usually termed "core" temperature. This temperature is the internal temperature inside the body. It's a measurement is most accurately done by a rectal thermometer, a rectal probe thermometer that has a constant temperature readout or by a bladder or esophageal temperature device. Temperatures taken by other methods may not adequately measure core temperature.
What are the risk factors for hypothermia?
The highest risk factors for hypothermia are accidental exposure to cold weather or partial or complete immersion in cold water. Consequently, not dressing appropriately for cold weather and loosing body heat or taking chances like walking on a partially frozen river or lake can cause rapid body temperature loss due to cold water immersion. These and similar situations can result in hypothermia. Elderly people and young children are at high risk for hypothermia because their bodies do not regulate their temperatures as efficiently as normal adults. In addition, people that have mental problems or whose judgment is impaired by alcohol and drug use place themselves in situations where they are likely to develop hypothermia (for example, an alcoholic sleeping in a doorway during subfreezing temperatures). Various medications and medical conditions may decrease the body's ability to regulate its internal temperature. Some examples include:
- Spinal cord injured patients
- Burn patients
- Parkinson's disease
- Individuals with arthritis or malnutrition
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