Protecting yourself and others from hypothermia

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Knoxville (WVLT) – With cold temperatures settling across East Tennessee, you should know about the warning signs of hypothermia and how to protect yourself and your family from it.

Hypothermia occurs when your body gets cold and loses heat faster than your body can make it.

According to experts, that can happen at temperatures of 50 degrees, in wet and windy weather.

So, imagine how quickly you can develop hypothermia when it's as cold as it has been this week?

"Any of us that have been outside for a long time and for example begin to shiver uncontrollably,” said Dr. Randy Pardue of Family Medicine, “you probably are in an early phase of hypothermia."

The symptoms can quickly turn dangerous when the body is cold to the touch and muscles become stiff.

Also, seek medical condition immediately if the persons pulse slows, breathing becomes shallow, and they become weak, sleepy, confused, loose consciousness or stop shivering.

All of those things can happen when body temperature drops below 90 degrees.

Those symptoms require emergency treatment, because they can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death, if the body continues to lose heat.

Dr. Pardue says if someone begins to shiver violently, stumbles or can't respond to questions, you should suspect hypothermia.

"First aid would be just doing what you can to warm someone up, which really means obviously trying to get them inside,” said Dr. Pardue.

Treatment for hypothermia depends on the severity of the symptoms.

Mild cases can be resolved by getting out of a cold or wet environment, using warm blankets, heaters and hot water bottles.

Moderate to severe cases should be treated in a hospital, where warm intravenous fluids and warm, moist oxygen may be administered.

Anyone can get hypothermia and most healthy people recover quickly without permanent injury.

But recovery is more difficult for babies and older adults, especially those that aren't dressed warmly enough.

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