Hypothermia: Wear a coat stay warm

 In Pediatric Healthcare

Hypothermia is a condition where your body temperature decreases drastically. It progresses very slowly and can be fatal if not treated.

It is the cause of nearly 1500 deaths per year in the United States. Babies and small children are more likely to have hypothermia.

Here are few facts on Hypothermia:

  • The average normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C).

  • If your child’s body temperature falls anywhere below 35 C they will begin to shiver and the blood vessels in hands, feet, arms, and legs start to narrow. Narrow blood vessels keep your child’s body and help supply blood to all major organs.

  • If the body temperature drops even more body functions will start to slow down, and there is a risk of death.

What are the causes?

  • Your child spends a lot of time in a cold, unheated indoor environment.

  • Your child is outside in cold weather without a coat, hat, gloves, and shoes that protect against the cold, wind, rain, or snow.

  • Your child wears cold, wet clothing or stays in freezing water for too long.

What are the risk factors?

  • Poor diet

  • dehydration

  • alcohol

  • drug abuse

  • low body weight

  • Chronic medical problems

  • Homeless people are at high risk of hypothermia, as are those who are unable to keep their home warm due to no insulation, poor heating system, or poverty.


  • Cold skin

  • Shivering and goosebumps

  • Fast breathing and heartbeat at first, followed by a slow or irregular heartbeat and slow, shallow breathing

  • Feeling tired or drowsy or trouble thinking clearly

  • Problems with walking and balance

  • Fainting or coma.


A child who has severe hypothermia needs to be treated in a hospital as soon as possible. Get emergency help right away or call 911.

If your child appears to have hypothermia, here’s what you can do while you wait for medical help:

  • If your child is not breathing or has no pulse, start CPR if you have had CPR training.

If your child is breathing:

  • Take off cold, wet clothing.

  • Wrap your child in blankets or other dry coverings including warm blankets, if possible.

  • If you must stay outdoors, cover your child’s head, but not your child’s face.

  • Keep your child from direct contact with the cold ground and shelter your child from the wind.

  • If you have no blankets or covers, cover your child gently with your body to add warmth.


The best way to prevent hypothermia is to be prepared and dress your child.

  • Have your child wear several layers of clothes rather than a single, thick layer.

  • The best layers are those that provide good insulation and keep moisture away from the skin. Materials that do this include polypropylene, polyesters, and wool.

  • Wear an outer garment that is waterproof but will also “breathe.”

  • Have your child wear a hat and mittens and keep the neck covered to help retain body heat.

  • Be prepared for a sudden change in the weather. Carry proper clothing and emergency supplies in a backpack so you are prepared for bad weather.

  • Don’t begin an outdoor activity too late in the day.

  • Take off any clothing that gets wet and put on warm, dry clothes.

  • Drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids. People who get hypothermia are often dehydrated.

  • Keep space blankets (sheets of plastic and aluminum that help retain heat) and high-energy food handy in case of an emergency.

  • Keep an emergency kit in your car with blankets, matches, food, and first aid supplies. If you get stranded in the snow, you can run the car for 10 minutes every hour to warm up. Make sure that the exhaust pipe is not covered and you have a window open slightly before you do this.

  • Keep a full tank of gas in your car for winter outings in case of emergencies.

  • Hypothermia can also happen indoors, especially if you have trouble keeping your home warm.

  • Have your home properly insulated.

  • Keep your living area above 65F, or 18.3C. Take your child to safe and warm places, such as shopping malls or community centers, during cold weather if you need to.

  • Make sure that your child wears layers of warm clothing and covers the head and neck, even indoors, to keep warm. Be sure to have and use enough warm blankets.

  • Keep your child dry.

  • Make sure that your child gets plenty of rest, exercises, and eats healthy food. Give your child hot meals and drink warm liquids throughout the day.

  • Ask your healthcare provider if any medicine your child takes might increase the risk of hypothermia.

  • If you cannot pay heating bills to keep your home warm, you can ask for help from government agencies that can provide funds to help pay fuel bills, churches, or hospitals.

Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.



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