Cold injury—hypothermia

Hypothermia is defined as a fall in core body temperature to below 35°C. Predisposing factors for the development of hypothermia include:

  • hunger
  • fatigue
  • exertion
  • low body fat (e.g. thin, male etc)
  • low ambient temperature
  • high wind chill
  • inadequate clothing (ineffective insulation, unprotected head)
  • wet clothes (rain, sweat)
  • inadequate equipment (protection from cold, wind, wet)
  • alcohol
  • underlying disease or illness (e.g. diabetes, dehydration)
  • underlying debility (e.g. elderly, frail, anorexic)
  • injury (blood loss, head injury, immobilisation from any cause).

Some people who may be more susceptible to hypothermia include those who are lean, male, young or elderly, or undereating, unfit teenagers. If coupled with adverse environmental conditions and or underlying illness or injury, the risk increases significantly.