In Treating Hypothermia, Slow and Gentle Are Best


This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

We talked last week about ways to avoid hypothermia and other cold-weather injuries. Today we are going to talk about emergency treatment.

Hypothermia can be mild, moderate or severe. Mild hypothermia is something that most people who live in cold climates have experienced. You feel so cold that your body starts to shake, not very much but uncontrollably.

The treatment for mild hypothermia starts with getting out of the cold, and changing into dry clothes if necessary. Drinking warm, non-alcoholic liquids and eating something sugary can stop the shivering. Taking a warm bath or sitting by a fire or doing some exercise can also help the body warm up. These are all common sense treatments.

But the treatment changes when people enter the moderate or severe stages of hypothermia. Their body temperature drops below thirty-five degrees Celsius. They lose the ability to think clearly. Their muscles become stiff. They might bump into things or fall over objects.

Adrienne Freeman is a park ranger at Yosemite National Park in California. She is part of the Yosemite Search and Rescue team. She says rescuers will first try to prevent additional heat loss by placing extra covering around a victim's chest, head and neck.

She says it is important to work fast to get people out of the cold and to medical help as soon as possible. But she says it is equally important to move the victim slowly and gently.

Ranger Freeman says any rough or sudden movement can force cold blood from the arms, legs and hands deep into the warmer middle of the body. The sudden flow of cold blood can create shock, a serious condition. It can also cause a dangerously abnormal heartbeat.

Adrienne Freeman says the process of "rewarming" a person needs to be done slowly, in a hospital setting. She says something else to keep in mind is that a hypothermia victim may seem dead but still be alive.

An extremely low body temperature can cause the heart to beat so slowly that a pulse may be difficult to find. Ranger Freeman says members of search and rescue teams have a saying that victims are not dead until they are warm and dead.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. If you missed last week's advice about how to avoid cold-weather injuries, it can be found at I'm Steve Ember.