Stopping Heat Loss

Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature—the temperature of the organs and blood in the center of the body, not the skin—drops below 95 degrees.

This may happen in a number of situations, such as when someone is out in cold weather for too long or falls into icy water. People who are wet will lose body heat faster than those who are dry. Similarly, windy conditions can steal heat away from the body faster than in still conditions. People with severe injury also are at risk for hypothermia.

To do this:

  1. Move the person out of the cold, ideally to a dry, warm location. If you can’t get indoors, shield the person from the cold and wind, keeping him or her in a horizontal position so that the blood can circulate more freely.
  2. Remove wet clothing. Cut away the clothing if you need to and immediately cover the person with dry blankets or coats. Be sure to cover the person’s head, leaving the face exposed.
  3. Insulate the person from the cold ground if you are unable to get indoors. Use blankets, sleeping bags, or whatever clothing you may have on hand.
  4. Call 911. If the person’s breathing has stopped or is abnormally low, or the pulse is very weak, begin CPR if you have been trained to do so.

Regardless of the cause or your certainty of a case of hypothermia, if you are with someone who is experiencing signs and symptoms—low heart rate and shallow respiration are particularly concerning—you need to act quickly by first stopping the loss of body heat.

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