Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a condition wherein the body loses heat faster than it is produced. Mostly, exposure to cold-weather conditions or cold water can cause hypothermia. Any factor that can impair the body’s thermoregulation can lead to hypothermia. From the UPSC Syllabus perspective, Hypothermia topic comes under the section of Science & Technology subject.

UPSC Science & Technology- Hypothermia

If one is not dressed appropriately or can’t control the conditions of the environment colder than one’s body, prolonged exposure to cold can lead to hypothermia.

For instance, the challenging terrain of Siachen glacier and its surroundings as a whole have been regularly claiming lives. Each year there are instances of Indian soldiers losing their precious lives due to cerebral edema or hypothermia while guarding the borders.

The topic is important for IAS Exam, about which aspirants can read in the linked article.

Causes of Hypothermia

Hypothermia is defined as a body core temperature below 35.0 °C (95.0 °F).

The two major causes of Hypothermia are as follows:

  • It classically occurs from extreme exposure to cold.
  • It may also occur from any condition that decreases heat production or increases heat loss.

To prepare the topic for UPSC 2020, you may check the linked article to know about the upcoming examination, its pattern, syllabus and more.

Other Common Causes of Hypothermia:

The condition of Hypothermia can be caused by various factors few of which are mentioned below in the table:

Wearing clothes that are not warm enough for the weather conditions. Staying out or being exposed to cold for too long.
Staying in wet clothes or not moving to a warm, dry location. When a person accidentally falls in the cold water.
Inadequate heating in the home, especially for elderly people and infants. In the case of older people and infants, this can occur if the Air Conditioning is too cold.

The topic is equally important for UPSC Mains which you may check in the linked article.

Symptoms of Hypothermia

The symptoms for hypothermia may vary depending upon the temperature the person is exposed to. There are three stages of Hypothermia- Mild, Moderate and High/Severe hypothermia. Read about these in the table below:

Stage (temp in Fahrenheit) Symptoms
Mild (90-95 °F) Shivering and Mental Confusion; Nausea; Heavy/Fast Breathing; Increased heart rate and fatigue
Moderate (82-90℉) Less shivering or reduced shivering; Higher mental confusion- lack of coordination; Confusion
Severe (<82℉) No shivering; Paradoxical Undressing [Person starts to remove the clothes which keep them warm]; low heart rate; Progressive loss of consciousness

You may check the UPSC Science & Technology Notes in the linked article.

Hypothermia Treatment

  • Hypothermia is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs emergency medical attention.
  • If the hypothermic person is unconscious or has no pulse or signs of breathing, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) should be given.
  • CPR needs to be continued, in the absence of signs of breathing or a pulse, until paramedics arrive or the person is taken to a hospital.
  • In cases of advanced hypothermia, hospital treatment is required to rewarm the core temperature.
  • Hypothermia treatment may include warmed IV fluids, heated and humidified oxygen, peritoneal lavage (internal “washing” of the abdominal cavity), and other measures.
  • Complications during recovery can include pneumonia, heart arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation (a dangerous “fluttering” rhythm of the heart), cardiac arrest (a sudden stopping of the heartbeat), and death.

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