Hypothermia occurs when a person’s core body temperature falls below normal after being exposed to cold temperatures, wind, or wetness. A person will automatically begin to shiver. This is the body’s way of trying to re-warm itself. If hypothermia is not treated promptly, it can progress and lead to death. You can prevent hypothermia by remembering the acronym COLD and following these tips.
Cover: Wear a hat to stop heat from escaping from your head. Wear a coat and mittens, not gloves. Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves by keeping fingers closer together.
Overexertion: Avoid strenuous activities that could make you sweat a lot. Wet clothing and cold weather together can make your body lose heat quickly.
Layers: Wear layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. You can protect yourself from wind by wearing outer clothing made from tightly-woven, water-repellent material. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will retain body heat better than cotton.
Dry: Stay dry. Remove wet clothing as soon as possible, especially mittens and boots.
Alcohol increases the risk of developing hypothermia. Don’t drink alcohol if you are going to be outdoors in cold weather, if you are going boating, or before you go to bed on a cold night.
If you have children, they need extra protection from the cold. Dress an infant or young child in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same weather. If your children start shivering, bring them inside. Have them come inside often to warm up. Don’t let a baby sleep in a cold room.
If you need to travel in cold weather, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive so emergency responders will know where to look for you if you have a problem.
Keep emergency supplies in your car, including blankets, a flashlight, a clean can where you can melt snow for drinking water, a first aid kit, dry food, water, tow rope, jumper cables, a compass, and a bag of sand or cat litter for traction in case you get stuck in snow. Carry a cell phone when traveling in bad weather. If you get stuck, run the car for 10 minutes every hour to keep it warm. Open a window slightly and make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked with snow.