VVH

HYPOTHERMIA

: :   PREVENTION
: :   SYMPTOMS
: :   TREATMENT

Your Health

Special Health Topics

Hypothermia - The Silent Killer: Prevention

The best means of treating hypothermia is to avoid it. Back country travelers should carry clothing appropriate for all possible conditions. Be prepared for sudden weather changes, especially in the mountains.

  • Clothing

    • Bring along, and have with you at all times, warm clothing, (an inner "wicking" layer, a middle insulating layer and an outer wind-and water-resistant layer), both for your upper and lower body.
    • Be sure you also have gloves or mittens, a hat and wool or thick fleece socks.
    • Take only clothing that will not lose its insulating properties when wet. (The primary offender is cotton.) Wool and many kinds of synthetic fleece will retain their insulation when wet.
    • When layering your clothing, make sure each layer is larger than the layer underneath. There should be about 1/4 inch of airspace between layers.
    • Proper outerwear is a must. A water-proof, preferably breathable, outer layer, ((like Gore-Tex), is essential in keeping the body dry and warm. Even though it might be sunny and warm at the moment, be sure to carry a Gore-Tex jacket, wind pants and a wool hat and gloves in your day pack.
  • Precautions

    • Avoid alcohol, which could contribute to dehydration and impaired judgment.
    • Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which also exacerbate dehydration.
    • Set a reasonable pace; Exhaustion can make treatment and even recognition of hypothermia more difficult.
    • Keep an eye on each other for signs of hypothermia and treat early.
  • Other Supplies

    • Pack a small camp stove, along with fuel and at least one pot, in case another injury is involved and you can't move the hypothermic person. You may have to prepare warm liquids for him or her.
    • Pack a tent or at least a rain fly, in case you need to improvise an emergency shelter.
    • Carry along a sleeping pad and sleeping bag to insulate the hypothermic person from the ground and the surrounding air.
    • A hot water bottle or two will aid in re-warming as well.
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