The human core is designed to run at a constant 37ºC – even when the extremities are much cooler. Combinations of cold, wet and windy weather along with hunger, fatigue, ill health or injury all contribute to its onset. Whether young, old, unfit or healthy, hypothermia is uncompromising.
Its outward signs are: feeling cold and shivering, anxiety and lethargy, falling and clumsiness, speech and vision difficulties and irrational behaviour; distress, collapse and death at its most extreme.
Hypothermia’s symptoms can begin to unfold in as little as ten minutes; a victim sometimes offering no complaint at all. If you observe any symptoms, stop immediately.
Prevent further heat loss by finding shelter and changing the victim into warm dry clothing. Warm sweet drinks and a rest in a sleeping bag for as long as necessary will allow the core temperature to slowly rise. If the patient is unconscious, keep them in the recovery position, slowly warming them in a sleeping bag – with another person if necessary.
Don’t try to rapidly heat them - this can be fatal. Recovery can take up to two days.
To minimise the risk of exposure, plan your trip well with the right equipment, food and fitness to meet its demands.