The Met office has issued a warning of ice and snow this week in some parts of the UK and when cold weather hits it’s important to protect yourself. The elderly, frail and very young are most at risk, however, anyone can suffer from hypothermia and it can be very serious.
Hypothermia is defined as the point at which the core body temperature falls below 35°C.
Small children and babies are particularly at risk as their temperature control area in the brain is not always fully developed. Elderly people are also more likely to suffer from hypothermia. If they are outside in cold conditions without suitably warm clothing they can quickly develop mild hypothermia.
Cold water and wet clothing reduce body temperature very quickly and people with high levels of alcohol or drugs in their system find it harder to maintain their body temperature. So if someone has collapsed outside after a night out partying the threat of hypothermia is very real.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia
- The person may be pale, quiet and cold to touch.
- They may be shivery and then stiff with cold.
- As hypothermia develops further, they may become confused, disorientated and may lose consciousness – severe hypothermia kills.
Treatment of hypothermia
- Remove cold, wet clothing and replace with warm dry clothing
- Cover the person’s head
- Wrap them up in coats and blankets and increase the room temperature if possible
- If you are unable to get the person inside, wrap them in a foil blanket and use a survival bag and shelter if possible
- Make sure they are insulated from the cold ground with blankets and coats, if possible.
- Give them warm (non-alcoholic) drinks
- Always seek medical advice and if their condition worsens call 999/112 for the emergency service.
- If they lose consciousness and are breathing put them in the recovery position
- If they stop breathing, start CPR
NOTE: if they are very cold, keep them still as the extreme cold can affect their heart and any swift movement could cause a cardiac arrest.
DO NOT use hot water bottles or put the person in a bath to warm them. This can warm them too quickly and cause burns.
For weather updates and advice for staying safe in extreme weather, go to the Met Office website: