Having grown up in Utah, I’ve gone to school at 7 in the morning when it’s still dark outside and stood in a foot of snow to wait for the bus to go to school. However, I don’t handle cold well so the winters in Brisbane are still really freaking cold to me! So, while chances are much higher of getting hypothermia in Utah winters, there’s still a very real possibility to getting it here too; though it’s more likely to occur after being exposed to water first.

Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius. The body would have to be exposed to temperatures under 10 degrees Celsius for a long time, which isn’t likely here. The other possibility is being in water that’s colder than 20 degrees Celsius for too long. If body temperature gets below 32 degrees Celsius, the situation becomes life threatening.

People suffering from hypothermia may not even realize they have a problem despite showing symptoms. They will look like they’re cold: shivering and pale with the possibility of being tired. As hypothermia worsens, the victim shows cognitive issues (i.e. slurred speech, confusion) and coordination problems (i.e. trembling hands, unsteady walk). Their breathing may slow along with their heart rate and pupils may dilate—they may even appear dead. If shivering has stopped, they have entered the severe stages of hypothermia.

If someone is going into hypothermia, call emergency services immediately (000). Try to warm up the victim by getting them out of the cold and removing wet clothing. Warm blankets, towels, and wrapped warm water bottles around the chest, neck, head, and groin will warm them up best. Sharing body heat also works well, but do not massage or rub the person. If they can handle it, warm drinks are acceptable as long as it’s not alcohol. If the patient appears dead, CPR should be performed.

While it’s great knowing how to fight hypothermia, it’s better to avoid it in the first place. Keep an eye on the weather for chilly days and stay dry during those times. Dress in warm layers, but if you start feeling cold get someplace warm. And watch out for your elders and children as they are more susceptible to hypothermia.

Enjoy the cooler temperatures, but be wary if you’re heading into the water during this season.

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