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When Does Being Cold Become a Medical Emergency?

When Does Being Cold Become a Medical Emergency?

Knowing When to Visit a Doctor for Hypothermia

As we continue to experience the frigid temperatures of winter, it's crucial to understand the impact of cold weather on our bodies. Knowing how to warm up safely at home and recognizing the signs of hypothermia can be lifesaving. At Carson Valley Health, we’re here to offer guidance on when to seek medical attention for symptoms of hypothermia.

Recognizing Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a dangerous condition that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, therefore resulting in a dangerously low body temperature. It's important to recognize the signs of hypothermia if you’re planning to spend time in climates with freezing temperatures, or when skiing, snowshoeing or participating in other winter sports. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness

Warming Up Safely at Home

When you're feeling too cold, there are several safe and effective ways to warm up. Firstly, physical activity can generate heat and improve circulation. Exercises such as walking, jogging, or indoor exercises like jumping jacks or pushups can help you feel warmer.

Another strategy is to use blankets, especially heavy, fleece blankets, or those lined with sherpa. Heated blankets, space heaters, and heating pads are other great ways to warm yourself up after becoming too cold during the winter months. Wearing socks or slippers around the house can also make a significant difference.

Hot beverages like tea, coffee, or hot cocoa can also help you warm up. If possible, soaking in a hot bath or taking a hot shower can also be beneficial.

When to See a Doctor

If you notice any signs of hypothermia, it's important to seek medical help immediately. Even if the symptoms seem mild, hypothermia can quickly become a life-threatening emergency. Remember, prevention is always better than cure. Make sure you dress warmly, stay dry, and keep moving when outside in cold weather.

If you have any questions regarding signs of hypothermia or when to seek medical care, call your primary care provider at 775.782.1550 or visit the nearest emergency room. Stay safe this winter.