Hypothermia – How to recognise and treat a hypothermic casualty

The UK workforce is possibly facing a difficult winter this year as the met office predict snow. With frosty conditions and harsher weather patterns, it’s important to take time in order to consider new risks that can arise from cold weather for employees who work outside often during these months of November through to March when they are least expecting it!

One risk is Hypothermia

Hypothermia generally starts to occur when the body’s core temperature falls below 35 degrees Celsius and is potentially a very serious condition that if left untreated will lead to death that often occurs if the body’s core temperature falls below 26 degrees Celsius as the heart goes into sudden cardiac arrest.

Those people who are usually at a higher risk include the following;

Babies, young children and older adults This is due to a decreased ability to regulate their body temperature.

People who remain outdoors for long periods due to their work commitments, people who have become stranded or could even be the homeless.

Signs & Symptoms of Hypothermia include the following;


Cold to touch

Shivering at first, then muscle stiffness as the body cools further

Slurred speech, disorientated, confusion and even memory loss

Slow pulse rate that can fall lower than 40 beats per minute

Lethargy leading to lowered levels of response, unconsciousness and death

Treatment for Hypothermia could include the following;

Open the airway and check breathing

Call 999/112 for emergency help at once

Warm the casualty by placing blankets or other insulating materials underneath, around and cover their body to insulate them from the cold ground. Ensure the clothing that they are wearing is dry and cover the head ensuring that you are not covering the face and airways.

If you are outside with the casualty and exposed to the elements then think of ways that you can provide shelter to the casualty to protect them from wind chill, rain or snow. If inside warm the room to 25 degrees Celsius.

Give the casualty warm drinks and high energy food but never give the casualty alcohol as this will dilate the blood vessels and will make the casualty cooler.

Hypothermia is covered in more details on our First Aid at Work Training Courses. We can provide training to all your staff at your premises or alternatively you could join one of our open public courses for First Aid.

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