Hypothermia is a condition in which the body temperature drops for about 5 F below the healthy level which is around 98 F. If the hypothermia lasts more than few hours this situation can result in death. Besides that, a person whose body temperature falls below 77 F has only 30% chance of survival.
Hypothermia and freezing are possible in anyone who is exposed to strong cold for a short period of time without adequate protection. Besides that, hypothermia can always occur in people who bathe in cold northern sea (especially in the summer when they are trying to fool the heat on the mainland). However, most of the “victims” of hypothermia are elderly people (mostly people older than 75 years) and this is something that happens for two main reasons.
First of all, the body of the elderly is weak and it is difficult for their body to maintain an even temperature when exposed to bitter cold. Secondly, the physical mechanism that detects a drop in body temperature gradually loses sensitivity and some older people are not aware that their body temperature has dropped to a dangerous level.
If you encounter an old person who is sitting or lying apathetically in a cold room you should always suspect that this is a case of hypothermia although the person can be covered with several blankets or wear thick clothes. The probable initial symptoms of hypothermia include confusion, drowsiness and pallor. This is followed by loss of consciousness. Feet and hands in hypodermic people are obviously cold to the touch although a cold stomach is more significant sign of hypothermia. Of course, body temperature can be measured in the right way by using a thermometer.
Every year, hospitals around the United States receive more than 50.000 older adults because of hypothermia and unfortunately many of them die as a result of hypothermia. In most cases, elderly men and women who live in poor conditions are the most affected category of people. However, it is not uncommon for wealthier people to experience hypothermia because of social isolation. That’s why it is always a good idea to use the help of a home care agency.
If you encounter an older person who appears to be in the initial stages of hypothermia, take it to the nearest doctor. If a person is already unconscious, call an ambulance. While you are waiting for help, try to gradually warm up the cold body of the patient.