Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature is less than 35 degrees Celsius. Our normal body core temperature is approximately 36.65 degrees Celsius.

Hypothermia may occur if you are exposed to cold temperatures or a cold, wet, windy environment for a long amount of time. Getting drenched in the rain on a cold, windy day, and not drying off, for example, may lead to hypothermia. However, hypothermia may also occur if you aren’t wearing enough warm clothing on a cold day.

In the extreme, if a casualty’s core temperature drops to 25 degrees Celsius, their heart and lungs would most likely have ceased functioning.

The symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Cold to touch
  • Confusion and clumsiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Irrational behaviour
  • Shivering
  • Slow pulse and breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Unconsciousness
  • Possible death


To prevent hypothermia, it is helpful to stay warm and dry in cold weather and avoid excessive alcohol consumption. In addition:

  • Wear a hat or other protective clothing to prevent body heat from escaping your head, neck, and face
  • Wear layers (preferably the loose-fitting, lightweight kind)
  • Wear outer layers made of tightly-woven, water-repellent material to protect against the wind.
  • Inner layers made of wool, silk, or polypropylene hold more body heat
  • Stay as dry as you possibly can. This means avoiding activities that would cause you to sweat a lot and being aware of snow entering mittens or boots.

Treating hypothermia:

  • Be prepared to carry out DRSABCD in severe cases
  • Call 000 for an ambulance
  • Cover with blankets, warm clothing etc.
  • Give sips of a warm sweet drink
  • Monitor the casualty’s vital signs: pulse, respiration and level of consciousness
  • Remove the casualty from the cold to shelter
  • Remove wet clothing and gently dry the casualty

And some important things NOT to do:

  • DON'T give the casualty alcohol
  • DON'T move the casualty unnecessarily until recovered
  • DON'T re-warm with direct heat
  • DON'T rub or massage the casualty
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