Hypothermia Prevention Tips

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Christmas morning, police discovered the body of a man who they believe died of hypothermia. Now, medical experts are reminding people about the deadly risks of cold conditions. 

Hypothermia, which is the body shutting down in cold temperatures, can affect those who aren't careful outside. Hypothermia starts to set in when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Young children, the elderly, and those with some medical conditions may be at a higher risk.

Brook Eide, an emergency medicine physician at Rapid City Regional Hospital, says that the symptoms of hypothermia can set in quickly.

“You should be worried about hypothermia when you stop to shiver, and that's when the confusion sets in,” says Eide. “Some of the final stages are when you start to have cardiovascular symptoms, when your heart starts to beat fast and slow, and then your breathing slows. And that's when you're really in danger and need to get medical attention right away.”

READ MORE: The Dangers of Frostbite

Treating hypothermia should be done slowly, allowing the body to ease back up to its regular temperature. Otherwise the body could suffer significant damage. Experts recommend warming the body from the inside out. You can do this by drinking warm non-alcoholic beverages and using body heat from other people.

Those suffering from hypothermia respond to heat sources differently, says Karron Zopp, a nurse practitioner with Community Health Center of the Black Hills.

“When they want to warm their hands and they put them in warm water, that's going to feel extremely hot to them,” Zopp said. “Actually, cool-temperature water will probably feel warm until those tissues get warmed up.”

You should also refrain from smoking or drinking in cold temperatures, because nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol can constrict blood flow and intensify hypothermia.

Officials also say it's important to dress accordingly with the weather, even if you aren't going to be outside for long.

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