What do you do if you think someone is suffering from hypothermia?

In the DC area we've had frigid temperatures with more predicted to be on the way this winter.

The weather can affect construction workers, healthcare workers, special police officers and others with physical jobs who usually work outside or, for heath care workers, take care of someone who is elderly.

And for people who work outside, especially those with any existing illnesses or conditions or the elderly, that means the risk of cold weather injuries, like frostbite and hypothermia.  These are treatable, if you watch for the warning signs and get medical attention.

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops from normal (98.6) to 95 degrees.  Although 3 degrees doesn't sound like a lot, this can cause significant changes, including the inability of vital organs to function properly.

Here are some common symptoms of hypothermia:

  • confusion
  • sleepiness
  • slurred speech
  • changes in behavior
  • slowed reactions

What do you do if you think someone you're working with is suffering from hypothermia?

     Keep them warm and dry, wrapping them in blankets, coats, layers of clothing.  Experts say a warm drink is OK but no caffeine or alcohol. And get them to an emergency room, where doctors can measure their body temperature and take more aggressive treatment measures if necessary.

     And remember, hypothermia can also happen inside a house or apartment that isn't heated as well - especially to someone who is elderly, has other health problems and is taking certain medications.