What Is Hypothermia?


What`s the Normal Body Temperature?

The body temperature usually adapts to one`s environment, so what’s “normal” for one may not be for another. The body temperature is also an indicator of one`s health. What’s more? It fluctuates according to age, sex, and even in situations like when one tells a lie, funnily. Generally speaking, the average normal body temperature ranges from 97 degrees F to 99 degrees F. Your body temperature also increases when you exercise. Usually, the temperature is higher in the late afternoon and evening than it is in the morning. Also, babies and young children have a higher body temperature than older children and adults because the surface area of their bodies is larger, due to their weight and more active metabolism.

Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, and as a result, causes a dangerously low body temperature. People who suffer hypothermia may have body temperature as low as 95 F (35 C). A drop in body temperature can affect the heart, nervous system, and other organs. If left untreated, hypothermia can lead to severe heart failure and problems with the respiratory system, and eventually death. The common causes of hypothermia are exposure to cold weather and immersion in cold water. Basic treatment for hypothermia usually entails warming the body back to a normal temperature.

Symptoms of Hypothermia

  • Shivering
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Bright red, cold skin (in infants)

Causes of Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it produces it. The most common causes of this condition are exposure to cold-weather conditions or cold water. Prolonged exposure to any environment that is colder than your body can lead to hypothermia if you aren’t dressed appropriately for the weather.

These are other conditions that lead to hypothermia:

  • Wearing clothes that aren’t appropriate for cold weather conditions
  • Staying out in the cold too long
  • Falling into the water, perhaps in a boating accident
  • Living in a house that’s too cold, either from excessive air conditioning or poor heating
  • Not getting out of wet clothes or move to a warm, dry location

3 Ways the Body Loses Heat

Direct Contact

rainHaving direct contact with something cold, such as water or the ground, makes heat conducted away from the body. Water particularly transfers heat from your body. This is why people lose body heat faster in cold water than in cold air.

Radiated Heat

Most of the loss of body heat is as a result of radiation from unprotected body surfaces.


Wind causes loss of body heat by transferring a thin layer of warm air from the skin`s surface.

7 Risk Factors of Hypothermia

Young Age

Studies have shown that children lose heat faster than adults do. It is common for children to ignore the cold because they’re distracted with fun. Their poor judgment to dress properly in cold weather may also be a challenge.

Older Age

The body’s ability to regulate temperature and sense cold declines with age. Some older adults are unable to communicate when they are cold or find it difficult moving to a warm location to get some warmth. These put them at risk of hypothermia.

Certain Medical Conditions

There are health disorders that affect the body’s ability to regulate body temperature. Some of these conditions are stroke, severe arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), poor nutrition, spinal cord injuries, anorexia nervosa, diabetes, and trauma.


There are medications that can change the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Antidepressants, narcotic pain medications, antipsychotics, and sedatives are popular in this category.

Mental Challenge

People with dementia or other mental conditions may have issues with their judgment of appropriate dressing. People with this condition are also likely to wander from home or get lost easily, and as a result, exposes them to being stranded outside in cold or wet weather.

Alcohol and Drug Use

beerAlcohol may make your body feel warm inside, however, causes your blood vessels to expand, and results in more rapid heat loss from the surface of your skin. This causes a decline in the body’s natural shivering response.

Also, alcohol and drug intake can affect people`s judgment on the need to get some warmth. People who are regularly intoxicated and stay out in cold weather are more likely to develop hypothermia.

Complications of Hypothermia

People who develop hypothermia are vulnerable to some cold-related injuries such as freezing of body tissues (frostbite) as well as decay and death of tissues resulting from an interruption in blood flow. This condition is known as gangrene.

How to Prevent Hypothermia

  • Avoid activities that would cause you to sweat a lot, especially in cold weather. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.
  • Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection.
  • Wear wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers because they hold body heat better than cotton does.
  • Always stay dry. Ensure you get out of wet clothing as soon as possible.
  • Keep your hands and feet dry, as it’s easy for snow to get into mittens and boots.
  • Dress infants and young children in ample layers of clothing.
  • Take children indoors when they shiver.
  • Don’t let babies sleep in a cold room.
  • Don`t drink alcohol if you’re going to be outside in cold weather, if you’re boating, or going to bed on cold nights
  • Wear a life jacket if you plan to ride in a watercraft because a life jacket can help you stay alive longer in cold water by helping you to float by providing some insulation and without using much energy.
  • Keep a whistle attached to your life jacket to signal for help if you need it.

4 Facts to Know About Body Temperature

A Fever Can Fight Infections

When one has a fever, their temperature may be as high as 100.4 degrees. This may come with symptoms such as chills and shivering, sweating, general weakness, headache, irritability, dehydration, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. Most people get agitated when they have a fever, but don`t know that it can be helpful, as it plays a crucial role in enabling the body to fight off infections.

Older Is Colder

Older people generally feel cold more than younger people do. Studies show that as we age, our average body temperature declines slightly. A study measured the body temperature of 133 people and found that body temperature was below average in people in age brackets 65 to 74 years old, and even lower in people aged 75 to 84, and lowest among those older than 85. It is also important to note that older people may run a fever at lower temperatures than younger adults.

Men and Women Have Different Body Temperatures

You probably didn’t know that your body temperature is dependent on your sex. Women’s core body temperature is, on average, 0.4 degrees higher than men’s, however, women’s hands are 2.8 degrees F colder than men’s on average.

A Hat May Not Suffice to Retain Body Heat

You probably grew up learning that you should wear a hat when it’s cold outside because most body heat is lost through your head. Well, that may not be entirely true. Studies have shown that there is nothing spectacular about covering your head, as far as retaining body heat is concerned.