Hypothermia- Conservation Corner
While for the most part we live in a warm state, Mississippi can get very cold, especially when considering our high humidity. For example, a few years ago a friend came to visit from Colorado and wanted to go for a jog early one January morning. I told him it was cold – about 35 degrees Fahrenheit – and he reminded he was from Colorado and could handle it. When he returned, he said if felt much colder than what he was familiar with out West.
When we are in a cold environment, our bodies can lose heat faster than it can generate it. The body will adjust by constricting blood vessels at the surface of the skin, shutting down perspiration and increasing muscular activity, which we call shivering. This is the beginning of hypothermia. Hypothermia is one of the leading causes of death among outdoorsmen. Wind-chill can also greatly reduce the time it takes for hypothermia to set in.
Some symptoms of hypothermia (defined as body temperature of less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit) may also include slurred speech, incoherence, numbness and impaired gait. Shivering is valuable clue, but hypothermic individuals whose body temperature is lower than 90 degrees Fahrenheit may not shiver or even feel cold. The individual may appear corpse‑like due to the pale color of his or her skin, lack of spontaneous motion and a faint pulse.
Odds are, medical attention is needed, but until that can be accomplished, you need to begin gradually re-warming the affected person. First, remove all wet clothing and place the victim in dry blankets in a warm environment. Offer warm, non‑alcoholic fluids. Movement involving the victim must be limited and done gently. The goal should be to get the victim to a hospital as soon as possible, for the potential complications are many and some can even be fatal.
To help prevent hypothermia from happening to you, wear suitable clothing and protect your exposed areas. Mittens are preferred over gloves. Wear multiple layers of loose clothing. Wearing two pairs of socks – cotton next to skin, wool on top will help protect your feet. Wear a scarf or head covering.
Remember that certain persons are very susceptible – the elderly, those with circulatory problems (peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, Raynaud’s syndrome) and those on certain medications such as beta-blockers (forhypertension and/or heart problems). You certainly want to stay on your medication, but be aware that it may put you at increased risk for cold injury should you have prolonged exposure to the cold.
About Chris Elkins
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