This does not only happen in countries where the temperature drops below zero. This can also happen in the Israeli winter, which is considered relatively comfortable. Fact – in recent days we have witnessed cases in which several people were evacuated to the hospitals in serious condition due to hypothermia.
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius. This condition is considered a life-threatening condition, requiring urgent medical intervention. The human body works optimally in a temperature range between 36.5 and 37.6 degrees Celsius. In this range, all the bodily functions essential to our existence are carried out and the hypothalamus, which is in the brain, acts as a temperature regulator. When the body’s temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius, all the body’s systems go into emergency mode, and there is a focus on maintaining the function of vital organs such as the brain and heart. In these situations the blood flow to less vital organs such as fingers and toes, ears and nose decreases. If the condition continues for a long time and the body temperature continues to drop, there may be a more serious and wider injury, a break in the activity of the body’s organs and in extreme cases – death.
Warm up the room and dress accordingly
The populations that are at risk of hypothermia are – babies and small children, the elderly, homeless people who live in public spaces, travelers who travel in areas with extreme weather conditions and people who spend a large part of their day outside the home. When referring to these populations, caution must be exercised.
- In the home space it is important to maintain a constant temperature between 24-21 degrees Celsius. When it comes to especially small babies, it is recommended to also use a thermometer, which will help maintain an appropriate temperature in the room.
- It is recommended to heat the house with an air conditioner/radiator and to avoid using devices such as gas stoves, which may cause fires. The use of electric mattresses and any unsafe heating accessory should be avoided. It is important to leave an opening for fresh air to enter and ventilate the house.
- Warm clothing should be used (and preferably in several layers) in order to prevent heat loss. When you are outside the house, you should use gloves, a scarf and other warming accessories that will help keep your body warm. In addition, if it is a population at risk, the recommendation is to avoid staying outside on particularly cold days.
- Make sure to drink 8-10 cups a day even in winter to avoid dehydration. In addition, consuming hot food also helps maintain body heat.
- It is important to observe regular and balanced physical activity in order to increase blood circulation. This is especially essential for the elderly population that spends a lot of time sitting or lying down most of the day.
- In addition, if you have elderly neighbors – you should make sure to demand their safety in order to make sure they are in good health.
What do you do in case of suspected hypothermia?
- If you come across a person with suspected hypothermia, immediately call the rescue teams. While you are waiting for their arrival, try to warm him with warm clothing, blankets, as well as with the help of heating means such as a hot bottle and an oven.
- Wet clothes increase heat loss, so it is important to remove them. Contrary to popular opinion, drinking alcohol does not warm the body, but creates a loss of heat, so it should not be given to a person with hypothermia in order not to worsen his condition.
- If you see that the person is losing consciousness – CPR should be performed on him, opening an airway, heart massages, etc. If the patient arrives at the hospital, he will be given a warm infusion according to his condition, infusions to improve the level of electrolytes, washing the stomach with a warm solution, antibiotics to prevent infections from the cold burns, and more.
May we all have a healthy and safe winter!
The writer of the column is a district doctor at Maccabi Health Services in the Jerusalem and Shefala district