Whenever the body's normal temperature becomes too low, hypothermia (hypo=low and thermia=temperature) occurs and will starve the brain of much needed oxygen. During the hot or cold weather months City of Ottawa Paramedics remind you that finding warmth can be the key to survival. Hypothermia can occur even during the hot days of July. Swimming in cold water for a long period of time can induce hypothermia even in the hottest months of the year.

Who is at Risk?

There are five groups that are most susceptible to hypothermia.

  • The elderly - with inadequate clothing, food (food sustains normal body temperature) or heat
  • Babies - sleeping in cold rooms or inappropriate clothing for the outdoors
  • Homeless - lack of shelter, proper clothing and food
  • Sport Enthusiasts - hikers, skiers
  • Workers - people who work outdoors

Signs of Hypothermia

Look for the "UMBLES" from people affected by cold temperatures;

  • a person who mumbles
  • a person who stumbles
  • a person who fumbles objects

For infants look for cold reddish skin and low energy - always have a thermometer at home.

Tips to prevent Hypothermia

  • Wear clothes in layers
    • inner layer (closest to the skin) - should have "wicking" properties to move any moisture away from the skin
    • middle layer - should be the insulating layer to prevent loss of your body heat while keeping the cold outside air away
    • outer layer - should be the "windbreaking" layer to reduce the chances of cold air reaching the insulating layer
  • Drink warm fluids and avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol promotes other cold weather injuries.
  • If you start to sweat, cool off a little. Wet clothes will also encourage other cold weather injuries.
  • Wear a hat - up to 40 per cent of body heat loss can occur through the head.
  • Wear gloves or mittens or both!
  • Wear a neck warmer to protect the chin, lips and cheeks - all are extremely susceptible to cold weather injuries.
  • When going on a trip leave the itinerary with a responsible person.
  • If hiking use a map and hand-held Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) device.

What to do in case of Hypothermia

  • Remove wet clothing that promotes hypothermia.
  • Get to a warm place as soon as possible. Use several layers of blankets heated in your home dryer if possible.
  • If the person is alert, give warm beverages. Never give alcoholic beverages.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Always be on the lookout for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. In case of serious cold weather injury, City of Ottawa Paramedics urge you to seek immediate medical attention.

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