January 14, 2009

Cold temps put people at hypothermia risk

Sub-zero U.S. temperatures can put people at risk for hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, federal health officials said.

Health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that when exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, which can result in hypothermia. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well.

Hypothermia occurs most commonly at very cold environmental temperatures, but can occur even at cool temperatures -- above 40 degrees F if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

Those most at risk of hypothermia are:

-- Elderly people with inadequate food, clothing or heating.

-- Babies sleeping in cold bedrooms.

-- Children left unattended.

-- Adults under the influence of alcohol.

-- Mentally ill individuals.

-- People who remain outdoors for long periods such as the homeless, hikers, hunters and outdoor workers.

The signs of hypothermia include shivering/exhaustion, confusion/fumbling hands, memory loss/slurred speech and drowsiness.

However, signs of hypothermia in infants are bright red, cold skin and very low energy.

If hypothermia is suspected, take the person's temperature and if it is below 95 degrees F get medical attention immediately.