When to Seek Medical Care
Individuals may treat minor cold exposure at home with blankets and home care techniques. Call a doctor to ask about danger signs that might warrant immediate transportation to a medical facility.
Any person who is at risk for hypothermia and is suspected to have sustained a cold exposure should be brought to a hospital's
emergency department. Look for these danger signs of cold exposure:
- Intense shivering, stiffness, and numbness in the arms and legs, stumbling and clumsiness, sleepiness, confusion, and amnesia.
- Removing clothing inappropriately in a cold environment (paradoxical
- Extremities feel very cold when touched by a person with a normal body
temperature; skin color changes to a bright red.
- Cold and change in mental status or unresponsiveness
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- The medical adage that "a person is not dead until warm and dead" is
based on the concept that victims may appear dead because of cold exposure,
but many of these people have made complete recoveries when re-warmed. This
situation has occurred with both adults and children, and is more likely to
have a successful outcome in children, especially if the cold exposure was
rapid, for example, falling into an ice-covered pond or pool. Many health
care professionals will follow the adage even if the immersion water
temperature is much warmer. Child drowning victims are frequently
aggressively treated this way, especially if they are hypothermic. All such
victims in this situation need rapid transport so that resuscitation
attempts may be made.
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