Treatment for Hypothermia Patients

Having hypothermia is a life-threatening situation. It's important to bring the body temperature back to normal as soon as possible.
Treatment for Hypothermia Patients

Last update: 18 August, 2019

A person is considered to have Hypothermia when their body temperature has significantly dropped. This condition requires urgent medical care to prevent serious damage. In this article, we’ll take a look at the different strategies to treat a person with hypothermia.

What is Hypothermia?

Man that has hypothermia

As a general rule, hypothermia is a medical term that refers to unusually low body temperature. In general, a person is considered to have hypothermia when their temperature is below 35°C or 95°F.

Numerous conditions can cause this state.

Overall, the body has a series of mechanisms that protect it against the cold. When its temperature drops, it works hard to produce heat and stabilize the body.

However, if the extreme condition persists, the body is unable to recover the lost heat. Therefore, at a body temperature below 35°C or 95°F, the body begins to fail. This is because the body’s heat production is lower compared to the heat that gets lost every instant.

Then, the vital organs and blood vessels begin to suffer damage. If this disorder is not treated properly, a person can die due to related complications.

Types of Hypothermia

There are three types of hypothermia depending on the seriousness of the patient. Symptoms usually appear gradually and worsen over time.

Therefore, keep in mind the following:

  • Mild hypothermia (33-35 ºC or 86-95 ºF). The most common symptoms or signs are chills or tremors, confusion or disorientation, and difficulty to perform movements. The skin may change its tone and be very cold to the touch.
  • Moderate hypothermia (30-33 ºC or 86-95 ºF). In this situation, the patient begins to lose consciousness and they may emit slight murmurs or babbling. It’s also possible that the victim feels intense drowsiness and a loss of energy.
  • Severe hypothermia (less than 30 ºC or 86 ºF). Finally, the individual loses consciousness, their heart rate and rhythm of breathing slow down and weaken. Also, their blood pressure is below the recommended standards.

What is the treatment for hypothermia?

Woman that is cold

With warm clothes and drinks, you can treat mild hypothermia.

Remember, first aid is a series of simple guidelines that can be applied in a state of emergency. No matter what the accident, you can try to minimize the damage that’s caused by an accident while waiting for medical attention.

In the case of hypothermia, immediately call 991 and check the status of the victim. To do so, you should check their pulse and breathing and apply Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (or CPR), if necessary.

Then, move the victim to a sheltered place that has a more suitable temperature. It’s also recommended to cover them with blankets or clothing that restore heat and change their wet clothes.

In the event of not being able to find shelter, heat must be given to the victim to try to dry any wet clothes and increase their body temperature. If possible, you can put warm compresses or get close to the victim. It’s not advisable to apply direct heat, because it can cause more serious complications.

If the patient is conscious, you can stimulate them with drinks or hot meals. In any case, the administration of alcohol to calm the victim is recommended.

What is the medical treatment that should be performed?

Once the medical team has arrived, they will apply the most appropriate treatment guidelines to stabilize the patient.

In cases of mild hypothermia, the disorder can be treated using passive heating. This technique consists of administrating hot liquids and blankets to recover the lost heat.

However, in more serious cases, the victim may be unconscious or you may be unable to calm them down. In this situation, doctors will perform other techniques to relieve the hypothermia. They will:

  • Give them fluids through an IV. Typically, it’s a saline water solution.
  • Use humidified oxygen to heat the airway of the patient.
  • Apply a variable amount of the saline water solution in certain regions of the body. It’s usually inserted through a catheter in areas such as the pleura or the peritoneal cavity.
  • In the most extreme cases, a hemodialysis machine may be used. This machine takes blood from a patient. Then, it raises its temperature. After, the machine returns it into the body of the patient.

In any case, hypothermia should be treated immediately with the proper measures by a trained medical team. Only in mild cases is increasing the temperature with clothes and drinks enough to restore the patient to health.

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