DESCRIPTIONHypothermia is a dangerous cooling of the body from exposure to cold air or water. All major organ systems are involved, including decreased blood flow through the kidneys and brain. Hypothermia can affect all ages but is more common in the elderly than in children. (Also see DROWNING, NEAR-, in Illnesses section.)
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Hospitalization. Arrange transportation to the nearest emergency center immediately.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSPoor muscle coordination.
Mental confusion and amnesia.
Shivering and low body temperature (95F to 98F or 35C to 36.7C) rectally.
Temperature drop to 77F to 84F (25C to 28.9C).
Purple fingers, toes, and nail beds.
Loss of consciousness.
Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, especially outdoors with a high wind-chill factor.
RISK FACTORSThin or wet clothing.
Slender body size. Slender children lose heat more rapidly than obese children.
Smoking, which decreases circulation to extremities.
Excess alcohol consumption.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Obtain warm housing and adequate clothing for your child before winter.
In cold weather, encourage the child to wear windproof clothing in many layers, including a scarf, hat, and mittens.
Urge your child not to leave home during a severe winter storm.
Instruct your child not to skate or fish on ice before determining that the ice is safe.
Children who are unable to care for themselves fully, such as the mentally impaired, should be supervised during cold weather.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies, such as kidney-function studies.
Sometimes fatal, depending on the length and amount of temperature loss. Chances of survival are excellent if the patient is conscious on arrival at the emergency center. Sometimes, with continued resuscitative efforts, there can be remarkable or miraculous recovery.
HOME CAREThe following may be helpful while waiting for emergency help:
Place the child in bed and cover with a blanket or electric blanket at normal body temperature.
A warm (not hot) bath may be helpful--but call the nearest emergency center for advice.
If the child is outdoors, cover with blankets or shield from the wind.
MEDICATIONThe doctor may prescribe medicine to support blood pressure if the child's condition is critical.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
After treatment, normal activity should be resumed gradually.
DIET & FLUIDS
Don't give alcohol to a child with hypothermia. It is of no help and may be harmful.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
You observe symptoms of hypothermia in your child.