Hypothermia develops when the body temperature falls
below 35°C (95°F). The effects vary depending on the speed
of the onset and the level to which the body temperature
falls. Moderate hypothermia can usually be
Severe hypothermia – when the core body
temperature falls below 30°C (86°F) – is often,
but not always fatal. However, no matter how low the
body temperature is, it is always worth persisting with life-saving
procedures until a doctor arrives to assess the casualty.
There may be:
- shivering and pale, cold, dry skin
- disorientation, apathy or irrational behaviour; occasionally
- impaired consciousness or lethargy
- slow and shallow breathing
- slow and weakening pulse
- in extreme cases the heart may stop.
For a casualty who has been brought in from
outside, immediately replace wet clothing with
warm, dry garments.
The casualty can be rewarmed by bathing if they
are fit, young and able to climb into a bath unaided. The water
should be warm but not too hot – about 40°C
Put the casualty in a bed and ensure that they are well covered.
Give them warm drinks or high energy foods such as chocolate to
help rewarm them.
These hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first
aid! St John Ambulance holds first aid
courses throughout the country.