Mild Hypothermia

As the body cools, it will take steps to prevent the heat loss. The earliest signs of hypothermia occur when skin temperature (not core body temperature) falls below an average of about 95 degrees when measured over several areas of the body—what’s known as the mean skin temperature.

At this early stage, circulation to the skin is decreased, which keeps blood away from the cold surface of the body and helps to preserve core body temperature. The person might notice that fine motor skills (texting on a phone, for example) are getting harder to perform and they are beginning to shiver. Shivering comes from the body expending energy to create heat and is a coping mechanism for cold exposure.

Actual hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Uncontrollable shivering is the first and most obvious sign of mild hypothermia.

Signs of Mild Hypothermia

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Social withdrawal, becoming quiet and non-communicative
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fumbling fingers. For example, having more than just trouble texting—now the patient might drop her phone.
  • Sense of discomfort or pain

If you are removed or protected from the cold environment (e.g. with blankets, dry clothes, hot cocoa), mild hypothermia can be reversed fairly easily. If not, the core body temperature is likely to continue to drop.

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