Anyone can get hypothermia, which occurs when the body gets cold and loses heat faster than the body can make it.
It is an emergency condition and can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death if heat loss continues.
Dr. Brian Hunt, of Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, said it is important to know the symptoms and get treatment quickly.
Early symptoms are: shivering; cold, pale or blue-gray skin; apathy; poor judgment; mild unsteadiness in balance or walking; slurred speech; and numb hands and fingers.
Late symptoms include: trunk of body is cold to touch; muscles become stiff; slow pulse; shallow and slower breathing; weakness; sleepiness; confusion; loss of consciousness; shivering which may not stop if body temperature drops below 90 degrees.
Hunt said treatment for mild symptoms include getting out of the cold, wet environment, using warm blankets, heaters and hot water bottles. Moderate to severe hypothermia generally is treated in the hospital with warmed intravenous fluids and warmed, moist oxygen in addition to other methods.