The simple way to avoid hypothermia is to dress warmly and stay out of the cold. But things don’t always work out and there may come a time when you don’t dress warmly enough and you’re so cold you can’t remember your name.
No, really. When your body temperature drops below 95 degrees F, you’re hypothermic and one of the symptoms is that you’re dazed and confused, not to mention shivering violently. You also get pale, and your lips, ears, fingers and toes turn blue.
Then things could get really serious. If your temperature should drop as low as 90 degrees F, your organs begin to fail and without immediate medical attention, you’ll likely die.
Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce your chance of freezing to death. If you think you could be caught outside in very cold temperatures, dress in layers, preferably wool or other fabrics that can dry quickly. Keep your head covered. Drink plenty of warm fluids, but not alcohol or any caffeinated liquid, both of which hinder the body’s heat-producing mechanisms. So forget about that shot of whiskey getting you through the cold night.
Also, do whatever you can to stay dry. Obviously, you’re not going to go around flopping into streams when it’s freezing outside. But if you should get wet, keep in mind that wet clothing can lose up to 90 percent of its insulating effect, so your risk of hypothermia could rise dramatically.
If you’re lucky enough to be with someone when your body starts shutting down, what should they do to save you? First, they should call 911. You’re going to need medical help. They also should get you into shelter, if possible. If they can’t get you indoors, they at least should move you out of the wind. Wherever you are, they should wrap you, including your head, in blankets, towels or even newspapers. Ideally, they should put hot water bottles under your armpits and between your legs, making sure that they don’t put anything on bare skin. Finally, they should keep you flat and move you as little as possible. Movement could cause a severely hypothermic person to have a heart attack.
A few things they shouldn’t do. They shouldn’t rub or massage you. That could cause more damage if you also have frostbite. They shouldn’t get you anything to eat. And they shouldn’t give you anything to drink, especially alcohol, no matter how much you think that’s just what you need.
Information courtesy of the U.S. Army Survival Manual