Once you have the individual sheltered from the cold and have removed any wet clothing, you will need to take the appropriate action to rewarm the body until help arrives.
To do so safely:
- Be gentle. Avoid rubbing the person aggressively. Someone who has experienced severe exposure will often have an irregular heart rate. Jarring, moving, or massaging the person vigorously may trigger cardiac arrest.
- Give warming drinks. Do so only if the person is alert and able to swallow. Provide warm, sweet, non-caffeinated beverages. Avoid alcohol of any sort as this will only cool the body even further.
- Use warm, dry compresses, ideally a first aid instant warming compress (a plastic bag that heats up when squeezed), a dryer-warmed towel, or electric heating pad set on low.
- Avoid intense heat of any sort. This includes a blow heater, radiant heater, or a hot water bath. Overheating the skin can lead to tissue damage or, even worse, trigger potentially deadly arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats).
- Avoid warming the arms or legs as this forces the cold back to the heart, lungs, and brain, further lowering the body temperature and increasing the risk of organ failure. Instead, focus the attention primarily on the chest, groin, and neck where the major arteries are located.