Hypothermia Treatment
Photo by Dave Moskowitz

Hypothermia Treatment

Hypothermia is a very survivable medical condition with proper treatment. The hypothermia treatment and procedures described in this article are simply first aid procedures and should be viewed as recommended as self-rescue or emergency procedures to follow until professional aid becomes available.

Under no circumstances should these descriptions be used as substitutes for proper medical treatment.

If the body temperature is between 90 degrees F. and 96 degrees F. a full recovery is almost completely assured.

If the body temperature is between 80 degrees F. and 89.9 degrees F. a recovery is quite possible with proper medical treatment but there may be some long-term effects.

With a body temperature below 80 degrees F., recovery is possible but rare, and medical complications are all but assured.

One of the most important rules of hypothermia treatment, no one is dead until they are warm and dead. Allow medical authorities to determine death in all cases.

When treating a victim of hypothermia all efforts should be made to sustain life until they have been properly warmed by at medical facility.

Hypothermia treatment is simple, but the proper treatment needs to be administered during different phases of the medical condition. Below we address treatment for mild hypothermia, moderate hypothermia, and severe hypothermia.

Mild Hypothermia treatment

This is the most common form of hypothermia and one we have all suffered from at one time or another. It is the easiest treated, and the easiest to prevent.

Treat mild hypothermia by getting into a warm and dry environment. Windy conditions and wet clothes cause the body to lose heat. Seek shelter from wind and weather

  • Insulate from ground – pine branches, leaves, moss, anything to provide insulation will work.
  • Change wet clothing for windproof, waterproof gear
  • Add heat – if safe, start a fire
  • Increase exercise, if possible
  • Get into a pre-warmed sleeping bag or blankets
  • Drink hot drinks, followed by candy or other high-sugar foods
  • Apply heat to neck, armpits and groin

Remember, victims of mild to moderate hypothermia may be suffering from impaired judgment and not be making rational decisions. They might be more prone to accidents. If you are a victim of mild to moderate hypothermia, be extra cautious! Don’t make a bad situation worse!

Moderate Hypothermia treatment

When a person has moderate hypothermia, in addition to the above listed items, get the person bundled up and out of the cold, covering the neck and head to minimize additional heat loss through the head.

With moderate hypothermia sudden movement and physical activity should be avoided. Rough handling of these victims may cause deadly heart rhythms.

  • You can apply warm bottles of water, or warm rocks to the armpits and groin area (comfortably warm when touched by a hand flat on the stone and held in place).
  • Fully conscious victims can sip lukewarm sweetened, non-alcoholic fluids. If their condition is clearly improving then more fluids and warmth can be administered.
  • Medical attention should be sought out, even if a full field recovery is achieved.

Severe Hypothermia treatment

Severe hypothermia is an extreme medical emergency and a high priority should be placed on summoning a rescue team immediately to transport the victim to a medical facility as rapidly as possible.

Maintain the body temperature of victims of severe hypothermia. Improper warming can create a condition called metabolic acidosis that can cause shock and heart failure. Warming should only be preformed in these states by a medical facility.

The critical thing when a person has severe hypothermia is to be gentle with them. Sudden or rough movements, forcing them to move or walk can pull very cold blood from the extremities into the warmer core that can cause shock. You need to be gentle and supportive. Rubbing the skin, moving of the joints should be avoided. This causes more harm than good.

  • In severe hypothermia, the best hypothermia treatment is best for three people to get under a pile of blankets or in a sleeping bag. Skin on skin contact of the torso works best with a person on each side of the victim. You should ignore their pleas to be left alone or allowed to go to sleep, but be gentle with them.
  • You should not administer fluids or make any other attempts to increase body temperature.
  • Maintaining temperature and preventing further loss is the most important thing.
  • If a person becomes unconscious from hypothermia monitor their breathing and pulse carefully.
  • Summon an Emergency Response Team.

If you can detect a faint pulse do not do CPR to support their heart. Only start rescue breathing, chest compressions or full CPR if you cannot detect any breathing, any pulse or both. Check frequently to see if they start breathing on their own, even if it is shallow, the same for a pulse.

Administering CPR to someone, even someone with a slight pulse can cause his or her heart to stop.

Remember, make all efforts to keep them alive until help arrives, they have been warmed and declared dead. People have recovered in morgues from hypothermia and have had profoundly low body temperatures and still recover.

Never give up hope with a hypothermia victim that does not have any other serious medical complications (like severe injuries from a fall or extreme altitude sickness).

Now you see why it is so vital to know hypothermia treatment.