Causes and Symptoms of Hypothermia

Wilderness First Aid

Hypothermia is what happens when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, thereby decreasing your overall body temperature. This often occurs when you are exposed to cold weather for an extended period of time.

Causes of Hypothermia

Anyone who spends time hiking, backpacking or exploring the outdoors should, particulalry in winter, should understand the symptoms of hypothermia. Knowing the symptoms and how to treat them may save you or someone else’s life.

When hiking or camping there are a number of ways to fall victim to hypothermia. However, there are a few common ways that seem to hit hikers the most:

1) Wearing clothes that simply are not warm enough for the cold weather. 
2) Falls into an icy stream or lake.
3) Simply being unable to get out of wet clothes and get to some place warm. 
4) Merely staying out in the cold for too long of a period of time can lead to hypothermia.

It is easy to become hypothermic without ever noticing it. Shivering is typically the first thing you will notice - it is simply your body's automatic defense against cold temperatures, it’s an attempt to warm itself.

Symptoms of mild hypothermia, according to the Mayo Clinic:

1) Shivering
2) Lightheadedness
3) Hunger/Nausea
4) Quicker breathing
5) Difficulty speaking
6) Mild confusion
7) Lack of coordination
8) Fatigue

Symptoms of severe hypothermia, according to the Mayo Clinic.

1) Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops
2) Clumsiness or lack of coordination
3) Slurred speech or mumbling
4) Confusion and poor decision-making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
5) Drowsiness or very low energy
6) Lack of concern about one's condition
7) Progressive loss of consciousness
8) Weak pulse
9) Slow, shallow breathing

Also, in addition to understanding the causes and symptoms of hypothermia, it's also very important to know how to treat hypothermia

Source: Mayo Clinic