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Hypothermia - The Killer in the Cold

With the season changing to winter, it seems appropriate to talk about hypothermia. Roughly 1,300 people die each year from this very preventable condition. Hypothermia is a condition in which the body's core temperature drops below the normal range, resulting in symptoms such as shivering, numbness, and confusion. This condition can be caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, or by wet and windy conditions, which can reduce the body's ability to retain heat. Left untreated hypothermia can lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death.

To avoid hypothermia, it is important to be prepared for cold weather and to wear appropriate clothing, such as layers of insulation, a waterproof and breathable outer layer, and a hat and gloves. Keep in mind the old saying, “Cotton kills”. This is because cotton will hold onto moisture and as that moisture cools, so will you. So, for all your layers, stick to moisture-wicking materials or wool. It is also important to stay hydrated and well-nourished and to avoid strenuous activities, which can increase the body's heat production and metabolism.

If someone is experiencing hypothermia, you need to take immediate action to help them recover. This may involve removing any wet or damp clothing and replacing it with dry and warm clothing, such as a dry jacket or blanket. It is also important to provide warm and sweet drinks, such as hot chocolate or tea, and to provide gentle and passive heat, such as a warm water bottle or heating pad. If you’re outside, get a blanket or pad under them to prevent the ground from pulling even more heat out of their body. It is also important to seek medical attention if the symptoms are severe or if the person is unable to recover on their own.

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