Hypothermia (cont.)

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When should I call the doctor for hypothermia?

In parts of the country where a cold environment is a way of life, many people have minor exposures to the elements and do not need to seek medical care.

Because the brain is so sensitive to cold, medical care should be accessed if the mental status of the patient is affected. This is manifested by a wide range of behaviors, from the person who is mildly confused to the patient who is comatose. As well, it is important to remember that there may be an underlying medical condition that led to the hypothermia that may need to be addressed.

If there is any uncertainty, emergency medical services should be activated (call 911 if it is available).

Can hypothermia be prevented?

While medical emergencies can occur in association with hypothermia (for example, people with diabetes who develop very low blood sugar), most cases of hypothermia are preventable with good planning and good judgment.

  • Wear appropriate clothing for the weather.
  • Prepare for the worst when enjoying an outdoor activity if cold weather is a possibility. If choosing to drink alcohol, make certain there is a sober person who will be responsible for your safety.
  • For the elderly and the poor who may not have adequate home heating in the winter, communities should insure that safe housing is available. Shut-ins should have routine social service or family contacts.

Medically reviewed by Rambod Rouhbakhsh, MD, MBA, FAAFP; American Board of Family Medicine


"Accidental hypothermia in adults"
"Clinical manifestations of hypothermia in children"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/10/2014

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