Every season someone goes outside and gets a little cold.
We can make this one of those medical jargon filled reminders or simply get to the crust of the matter.
Sub acute/Mountain/Accidental Hypothermia most often results from decisions that leave a person cold, tired, dehydrated and hungry. It follows a classic downward spiral whereby brain functions slow, judgment fails and behavioral protective instincts fade.
98.6-degrees. All systems are normal. We are mentally sharp, paying attention to the details, monitoring our environment and responding appropriately. We are physically coordinated, feeling strong and capable and making appropriate gear and clothing decisions.
97-degrees. Our brain functions are slowing. The thermoregulatory center of the brain begins to initiate defensive actions. Metabolism increases burning more glucose. Judgment begins to fail, apathy sets in and our focus is on the trail, not the weather and our surroundings. We don’t make the best food and hydration decisions and our mood and reactions change.
96-degrees. Our system is on full alert and the body is doing everything it can to rewarm itself. Shivering begins as a constant, uncontrollable, fine motor tremor. Motor skills decrease and our speech starts to slur. Decision-making and common sense begins to fail. We may not take any behaviorally constructive action.
Below 96-degrees. It only gets worse.
PREVENTION OF HYPOTHERMIA
• Know your enemy; be prepared for wet, wind and cold.
• Wear fabrics that stay warm when wet.
• Get dry and stay dry.
• Stay well-hydrated.
• Snack often on quick-burning carbohydrates.
• Carry bivouac gear and know how to use it.
• Be attentive to yourself, your companions and to the environment.
• Turn around before you get into trouble. This determination is a difficult point to determine, but there are almost always early warning signs. Examples include: someone is moving slowly or complaining of being cold and/or tired; weather/route conditions are not what you expected or are changing for the worse; you fall behind your day’s planned schedule; or someone says something like, “I don’t feel good about this.”
Resource: Wildcare by Franklin R. Hubbell, DO