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?
- 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.