Types of Hypothermia

There are three general types of accidental hypothermia:

  1. Acute exposure to cold, such as immersion in cold water or getting caught in the snow. This is worse than simply being out in cold weather.
  2. Fatigue or other lack of metabolic action that doesn’t produce sufficient heat, including intoxication with alcohol or malnutrition.
  3. Chronic exposure to mild or moderate cold temperatures without a break. Even chatting too long outside without a jacket on a cool autumn evening is enough to develop mild hypothermia, even though it is also easily treated.

Hypothermia is also very common during surgery, which is due to a combination of a cold environment and compromise of the skin (since by definition the skin has been cut open) allowing heat to escape more rapidly than normal. Perioperative hypothermia is well documented and surgeons are looking for ways to prevent it while still providing an environment that is healthy and comfortable for the surgical team.

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