If you are outdoors for recreation, think about rapid body heat loss. Hypothermia may be a new word to you, but it is the ONLY word that describes the rapid, progressive mental and physical collapse accompanying the chilling of the inner core of the human body.
Hypothermia is caused by exposure to cold, aggravated by wet, wind, and exhaustion. It is the #1 killer of outdoor enthusiasts.
Hikers going into the high country need to be prepared for cold, wet weather.
- Stay Dry. Wet clothes lose about 90% of their insulating value. Make sure your rain gear works.
- Beware of the Wind. Wind carries heat away by driving cold air through clothing. Wear a wind breaker. Protect your skin.
- Prevent Exhaustion. Exercise drains your energy reserves. Stop and rest frequently while you still have energy. If hypothermia develops, STOP TRAVELING. Help the victim reserve energy and heat. Send for help.
- Eat and Drink. Drink and eat throughout the day. Dehydration and insufficient energy lead to fatigue and depression, poor circulation and lousy decisions.
- End Exposure. Seek shelter if conditions are bad. If you can't stay warm and dry, turn back. Give up your objective, not your life!
- Watch for Symptoms. Watch for these symptoms among your companions: uncontrollable shivering; vague, slurred speech; memory lapses; incoherence, or irrational behavior; fumbling hands; frequent stumbling; drowsiness or exhaustion; hallucinations; blueness of skin; dilation of pupils; weak or irregular pulse; unconsciousness.
- TAKE ACTION -- BELIEVE the SYMPTOMS, NOT the VICTIM!
- Prevent further heat loss. Get the victim out of the wind and precipitation. Change out of wet clothes and into dry, warm clothes. NEVER give the victim alcoholic beverages.
- Increase heat production. If the victim is conscious, give warm, sweet drinks. Keep the semi-conscious victim awake. Put the victim in a warm sleeping bag. Attempt to warm the victim by providing heat to the chest area. Do NOT attempt to warm extremities firSt.
- Seek medical help. Heart and lung failure are significant threats to hypothermia victims.