What is Hypothermia? – Causes, Risk Factors and More

Tanuja Bisht

, Health A2Z

A sudden decrease in body temperature or hypothermia can define as a medical emergency that occurs when the body loses heat faster than its capacity of producing heat, causing a severely low body temperature.




What is Hypothermia?

It defined as a potentially severe drop in body temperature, which is usually caused by continued exposure to cold temperatures. The risk of cold exposure increases with winter months. But if the person exposes to cold temperatures in spring or capsized on a summer sail, the person is also at risk of the condition.

Usually, the body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C), but hypothermia occurs as the body temperature drops below 95 F (35 C).


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What are the Causes Hypothermia?

There are several possible causes of the condition including;

Cold Exposure:

When the balance between body’s heat production and heat loss increased for a prolonged period, hypothermia can occur. Usually, accidental it happens after cold temperature exposure without enough warm and dry clothing for protection.

However, much lighter environments can also lead to the condition, depending on a person’s body mass, age, body fat, length of time exposed to cold temperatures, and the overall health.


Other Causes:

Certain medical conditions like thyroid conditions, diabetes, some medications, severe trauma, or using alcohol or drugs all increase the risk of hypothermia.




What are the Symptoms of Hypothermia?

There are several symptoms of this condition depending on age including;


Symptoms for adults:

  • Shivering
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Mumbled speech
  • Loss of coordination, stumbling steps, fumbling hands


Symptoms for infants:

  • Cold-to-touch or bright red skin
  • Unusually low energy


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What Are the Risk Factors for Hypothermia?

Following are the risk factors for this condition including;

  • Elderly, children, and infants without adequate heating, clothing, or food are at risk of the condition.
  • People living with mental illness
  • People were living in cold weather for a long time without proper preparation.




How Can We Diagnose Hypothermia?

It can be diagnosed with few earlier symptoms like shivering or slow or shallow breathing. There is also a specialized thermometer that can help in detecting very low core body temperatures and confirm the diagnosis of hypothermia.



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What is the Treatment Available for Hypothermia?

It is a life-threatening condition that needs emergency medical attention.

If medical care isn’t immediately available then anybody can help the patient with the condition:

  • Immediately removes all wet clothes, gloves, hats, shoes, and socks.
  • Protect the person against the wind, further heat loss with warm, drafts, dry clothes and blankets.
  • Move gently to a warm and dry shelter as soon as possible.
  • Provide extra clothing to sufferer such as warm blankets.
  • Offer warm liquids to the person, but avoid caffeine and alcohol, which speed up heat loss.





Hypothermia is a potentially serious condition but can be cured easily with earlier symptoms and treatment options. But always note that prevention is always better than the cure.


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