Body temperature, which refers to the temperature inside the body, varies slightly depending on the measurement site, age, and health condition, but is generally maintained in the range of 36.5~37℃. The body temperature rises or falls due to cold, infection, trauma, and various diseases. In particular, when exposed to a cold environment, the human body maintains body temperature through an increase in metabolic rate, tremors, and muscle tension. However, when exposed to low temperatures for too long, problems with the normal defense mechanism occur, causing various physical abnormalities. Hypothermia refers to a case in which the body’s protective mechanism is suppressed by environmental factors such as exposure to cold or a specific disease, and the body’s body temperature drops below 35°C without maintaining a normal body temperature. Based on the temperature measured in the bladder or rectum, 33~35℃ is classified as mild, 28~32℃ as severe, and below 28℃ as severe.
The cause of hypothermia is an accidental form of exposure to a cold environment. It is known that these contingencies are more likely to result in a drop in body temperature more easily if you do not wear enough clothing, get hit by rain, or be hit by strong winds. It can also occur when you stay in a cold space for a long time or fall into water, even if it is not a cold winter. In addition, the metabolic rate may be lowered due to endocrine diseases such as hypothyroidism, hypopituitarism, and hypoadrenal insufficiency.
In addition, it is known that it can be caused by severe head trauma, alcoholism, sepsis, and skin diseases. It has been reported that hypothermia has a larger body surface area than adults, so the incidence rate is higher in infants and young children with a lot of heat loss and the elderly with weak autonomic nervous system and blood vessel defense mechanisms. Now, let’s learn more about the main symptoms of hypothermia and various information about treatment and prevention.
The main symptoms of hypothermia
As mentioned earlier, hypothermia is divided into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe, and the symptoms are also slightly different. In mild cases corresponding to 33~35℃, respiration and pulse speed along with general tremor symptoms, muscle stiffness, dehydration, and general deterioration of body functions may occur. In addition, as the skin blood vessels constrict, the skin becomes pale, the lips turn blue, and the pronunciation becomes inaccurate.
And when the central body temperature is 28~32℃, the respiration and heart rate are slowed, and at the same time, the stiffness of the muscles becomes more severe than in mild cases, the pupil dilates and the state of consciousness deteriorates. In addition, when the core body temperature is below 28°C, severe hypothermia occurs, resulting in loss of corneal reflexes and pain reflexes, as well as ventricular fibrillation in which the heart cannot contract properly and blood cannot be pumped throughout the body. Such ventricular fibrillation makes blood pressure irregular, and in severe cases, it increases the risk of losing consciousness and falling into a coma due to cardiac arrest.
When hypothermia occurs, it is said that most patients recover completely without leaving any special sequelae if the severity is less than that. However, in the case of severe hypothermia, it can damage the heart, lungs, brain, etc., causing serious problems in normal metabolic function, as well as life-threatening complications due to complications. Therefore, it is recommended to reduce exposure to low temperatures for a long time as much as possible, and it is very important to take measures to raise body temperature if body temperature has dropped due to prolonged outdoor activities in winter. Also, if you are hypothermic, whose body temperature is extremely low, it is also important to move to a warm place as soon as possible after first aid.
When a patient with hypothermia occurs, it is necessary to prevent heat loss and at the same time evacuate from a cold place as soon as possible and reheat in a warm place. It is recommended to take measures such as removing wet clothing and wrapping the patient in a blanket to prevent body temperature loss. And when moving, it is said that the unstable heart muscle can cause arrhythmia, so it is necessary to minimize the movement. In particular, caution should be exercised as it can trigger ventricular fibrillation if you decide to do CPR in a hasty judgment that the pulse is not felt due to low blood pressure. It is also important to drink warm water or beverages to prevent the temperature from dropping. However, drinking alcohol can lower your core body temperature, so you should avoid it. After implementing these various first aid measures, it is important to transport them to the hospital as soon as possible to receive appropriate treatment.
How to prevent and manage hypothermia
1. Management habits to maintain body temperature
In order to prevent hypothermia, it is important to pay more attention to keeping warm and to maintain a constant body temperature. It is recommended to limit going out as much as possible when the bitter cold continues when the temperature drops rapidly. In particular, the elderly, children, and patients with endocrine diseases who are at high risk of developing hypothermia should be more careful when the bitter cold continues. And when going out, it is good to wear a scarf, hat, gloves, and earplugs to increase the thermal effect. When wearing clothes, it is said that wearing several layers of thin clothes is more effective in maintaining body temperature than wearing one thick layer of clothes. However, clothes and shoes that are too tight can be a factor that hinders blood circulation, so it is recommended to wear loose-fitting clothes.
2. Exercise caution in cold temperatures
In order to prevent hypothermia, it is necessary to be careful when exercising outdoors in the cold winter. It is recommended that you warm up your body temperature by doing stretching and warm-up exercises indoors before exercising outdoors. And if you sweat a lot while exercising outdoors, sweating can cool down and cause a drop in body temperature. Therefore, it is recommended that you prepare and change your workout clothes if you are sweating. In addition, drinking alcohol while exercising or hiking is a good way to avoid it because it can cause hypothermia due to a decrease in central nervous system function and expansion of peripheral nerves.
3. A balanced diet
In order to prevent hypothermia, it is very important to eat a balanced diet rich in various vitamins and minerals. It is said that eating these balanced foods helps normal metabolic function, facilitates the body’s necessary energy production, and generates heat to help maintain proper body temperature.
Therefore, it is important to eat a variety of foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, legumes, mushrooms, and fish. In addition, it is important to drink enough water to ensure that adequate water intake also helps metabolic function and prevents hypothermia.