Hypothermia - Symptoms

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What are the signs and symptoms of hypothermia?

The signs and symptoms of hypothermia vary depending upon how severe the hypothermia becomes. In general, there is a sequence of symptoms:

  • In mild hypothermia, the person will shiver and their heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure will increase.
  • As the core temperature drops further, below 95 F (35 C), the pulse and breathing rates drop as does the blood pressure.
  • The person may experience apathy, confusion, slurred speech, and an inability to perform simple tasks.
  • As the core temperature drops further (below about 89.9 F or 32.16 C), shivering stops, the appears appears to be semi-comatose, and the heart rhythm may become irregular.
  • Below 82.4 F or 28 C, the person has no reflexes, and the heart's output capacity falls.
  • The person's pupils become dilated and the patient appears comatose or dead.

These signs and symptoms can appear rapidly (minutes) in individuals immersed in very cold water. They may appear more gradually (over several hours) in people that develop hypothermia without water immersion, but with exposure to cold environments. Some people will develop other signs of cold weather induced hypothermia by having extremities (hands or feet) show cold related damage such as frostbite. These symptoms can appear in men, women, and children.

Picture of the Stages of Frostbite
Picture of the Stages of Frostbite
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See what others are saying

Comment from: Lewis, 35-44 Male (Caregiver) Published: October 11

At night the temperature drops to 18 degrees Celsius with my environment air-conditioned and cooled all the time. This has caused my breathing to be difficult and I've developed hypothermia symptoms even though I am in the tropics. I cough out blood-stained mucous especially in the morning.

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Comment from: Hard worker, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: January 08

I was working alone but yet out in the open exposed to bitterly cold air in North Dakota. Wind chills were -45 to -55 below zero. I had very little sleep over the course of 5 days. I was on call at my job 24 hours a day. I had been out in the field for 24 hours straight. I was in and out of doors in spurts to work and stay warm. Finally I was working outside and I quit feeling cold but yet I felt the wind still blowing on me, then I started to shiver like never before, it wasn't a cold shiver but like my body was shaking. I started to feel very tired and lethargic, at one point I felt like taking off my coat and sitting outside on the stairs in the wind. As I walked back to my vehicle I felt weak in my legs like I was going to fall to the ground at any moment. I made it back to the truck and rested with the heater blowing on me, ate and drank water. I still feel weak and now sick to my stomach. But I have at least another 10 hours of work ahead of me. Shivering/ shaking is still present, and my feet have not yet warmed up.

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