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First Aid

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Overexposure to Cold

Prolonged exposure of the whole body to cold conditions - particularly immersion in cold water or exposure to wet and windy weather without adequate protection - can cause the temperature regulating mechanism to fail, with serious, even fatal, results. Infants and elderly are more susceptible than healthy adults. Alcohol and some drugs can decrease the function of the heat-regulating mechanisms.

Cooling of the body's deep organs and tissues to below 35°C, medically known as hypothermia, is a dangerous condition needing emergency first aid and medical treatment.

Mild to moderate overexposure

Symptoms and signs

  • shivering and feeling cold
  • extreme fatigue, drowsiness
  • cramps
  • blurred vision
  • slowing of mental and physical alertness
  • confusion, slurred speech, stumbling, uncoordinated movement
Warning

Do not attempt to warm the victim by using a hot­water bottle or electric blanket, or by placing the person close to a fire or heater.

First aid treatment

  1. Move the person to a sheltered, dry spot. Replace wet clothes with warm, dry clothing.
  2. Wrap the person in blankets or a sleeping bag to prevent further heat loss. If it is available, use an outer layer of windproof material such as an aluminium foil blanket or strong plastic. The body heat from another person is also a valuable aid: if possible have someone share the blankets or sleeping bag with the sufferer.
  3. If the person is fully conscious, give warm drinks. Do not give alcohol.
  4. seek medical aid.

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