How To Prevent Hypothermia

Hypothermia: Effects And Prevention

As the winter months approach, we must pay attention to anyone who might be working or playing in cold environments. Working in a cold environment can involve several adverse effects on human performance and health. Workers suffering from exposure to the cold can experience thermal discomfort, increased strain, decreased performance, and cold-related diseases and injuries. While these symptoms can be mitigated with adequate clothing, such as a best rated cooling towel, special precautions must be taken in extreme temperatures.

Cold also can modify or aggravate the risk of common hazards and increase the risk of cold-associated injuries.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia occurs when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced and the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F.  Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

Symptoms Of Hypothermia?

Mild symptoms:

  • An exposed worker is alert.
  • He or she may begin to shiver and stomp the feet in order to generate heat.

Moderate to Severe symptoms:

  • As the body temperature continues to fall, symptoms will worsen and shivering will stop.  
  • The worker may lose coordination and fumble with items in the hand, become confused and disoriented
  • He or she may be unable to walk or stand, the pupils become dilated, pulse and breathing become slowed, and loss of consciousness can occur. A person could die if help is not received immediately.

Hypothermia First Aid

  • Call 911 immediately in an emergency; otherwise, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Move the person to a warm, dry area.
  • Remove wet clothes and replace with dry clothes, cover the body (including the head and neck) with layers of blankets; and with a vapor barrier (e.g. tarp, garbage bag). Do not cover the face.
  • If medical help is more than 30 minutes away:
    • Give warm sweetened drinks if alert (no alcohol), to help increase the body temperature. Never try to give a drink to an unconscious person.
    • Place warm bottles or hot packs in armpits, sides of the chest, and groin. Call 911 for additional rewarming instructions.
  • If a person is not breathing or has no pulse:
    • Call 911 for emergency medical assistance immediately.
    • Treat the worker as per instructions for hypothermia, but be very careful and do not try to give an unconscious person too much fluids.
    • Check him/her for signs of breathing and for a pulse. Check for 60 seconds.
    • If after 60 seconds the affected worker is not breathing and does not have a pulse, trained workers may start rescue breaths for 3 minutes.
    • Recheck for breathing and pulse, check for 60 seconds.
    • If the worker is still not breathing and has no pulse, continue rescue breathing.
    • Only start chest compressions per the direction of the 911 operator or emergency medical services
    • Reassess the patient’s physical status periodically.

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