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Hypothermia is the condition of having an abnormally low body temperature, it is the cooling of the bodies core, hypothermia is caused by getting too cold and the body is losing more heat than it can generate, the body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius, the normal body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius.

The cold causes the temperature of the bodies vital internal organs to fall dangerously and eventually lead to death.

Once the body temperature has dropped below 35 degrees Celsius, hypothermia is established. Whilst the early signs of hypothermia can be missed and the casualty may not even realise they have the onset once recognised treatment can be effective.

Hypothermia is caused by heat loss through either-

  • Convection which is when water or wind passes over the body carrying the heat away.
  • Conduction which is sitting or lying on a surface or in water colder than the body temperature.
  • Radiation, where the surrounding air is colder than the person. And finally, evaporation of sweat or water from wet skin or clothing.

There are different types of hypothermia, depending on how quickly the body loses heat:

  • Acute or immersion hypothermia – this happens when a person loses heat very rapidly; for example, after falling into cold water
  • Exhaustion hypothermia – this happens when the body is so tired it can no longer generate heat
  • Chronic hypothermia – where heat is lost slowly over time; this is common in elderly people who live in poorly heated accommodation or in people sleeping rough