The first priority is to perform a careful check for breathing and a pulse and initiate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as necessary.
- If the person is unconscious, having severe breathing difficulty, or is pulseless, call 911 for an ambulance.
- Because the victim's heartbeat may be very weak and slow, the pulse check should ideally be continued for at least one minute before beginning CPR. Rough handling of these victims may cause deadly heart rhythms.
The second priority is re-warming.
- Remove all wet clothes and move the person inside.
- The victim should be given warm fluids if he or she is able to drink, but do not give the person caffeine or alcohol.
- Cover the person's body with blankets and aluminum-coated foils or other available protective covers (for example, a sleeping bag). Avoid actively heating the victim with outside sources of heat such as radiators or hot water baths. This may only decrease the amount of shivering and slow the rate of core temperature increase.
- Strenuous muscle exertion should be avoided; rubbing or massaging the limbs and exertion may trigger cardiac arrest in some hypothermic patients.
- Some cold exposure (borderline hypothermia), such as cold hands and feet, may be treated with home care techniques, but calling a health care professional for advise is recommended.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/17/2014
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