Hypothermia Prevention

Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below 95°F (35°C). This is most often because of long exposure to cold. Babies and older adults are at the greatest risk. Older adults are especially prone to hypothermia because of medicines they may take, changes in their body's ability to regulate temperature, and other health conditions. Hypothermia is very serious. It can be fatal if not treated. Here are some tips for preventing hypothermia.

Tips to prevent hypothermia

  • Dress babies and young children for the temperature. Don't take babies and children out in cold weather without warm hats, coats, pants, and gloves. Pay particular attention to toddlers, who may get wet in the snow and not realize how cold they are becoming.

  • Maintain correct heating in your home, especially at night. Set the thermostat to 68° to 70°F.

  • Dress for the temperature. If it’s cold, wear as many layers of loose-fitting clothing as needed to stay warm. If you’re indoors, use extra blankets or a sleeping bag for added warmth. If you’re outdoors, keep your head and neck covered with a hat and scarf. Wear a coat or jacket that protects against the wind and rain. Also protect your hands with gloves or mittens and your feet with socks and boots and try to stay dry.

  • Always check the weather before you go out. Be prepared in case you get stranded in cold weather. Keep first aid kits, packaged and canned food, and dry blankets and clothing in your car. When swimming or boating, have these same emergency supplies. Also have rescue items such as life jackets on hand.

  • In an emergency, drink cold water instead of ice or snow.

  • Eat enough food daily. When you’re cold, your body uses up more calories. Also, you need to maintain some body fat for your body to stay warm.

  • Limit the amount of caffeine or alcohol you drink when it’s cold. These cause your blood vessels to widen, which can lower your body temperature. Also, alcohol can affect your ability to tell if you are getting too cold. 

  • Check with your healthcare provider to see if certain health problems you have or medicines you take can affect your body temperature. You may need to take extra steps to protect yourself from hypothermia.

  • If you do outdoor cold-weather sports or activities, always do so with another person. Wear multiple layers. If clothing gets wet, go indoors and remove wet items as soon as possible. And be sure to get enough food and rest to help your body be ready to protect itself against cold.

Signs of hypothermia

Call 911, or get medical care right away if any of the following occurs during or after exposure to cold:

  • Body temperature below 95°F (35°C)

  • Confusion, slurred speech, or slow or uncoordinated body movements

  • Numb, tingly, or blue skin or shivering

  • Chest pain or trouble breathing

  • Slow, fast, or irregular heartbeat

  • Lightheadedness or fainting spells

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