Be aware of signs of hypothermia

This has been a brutal winter for much of the U.S. with record snows and sub-zero temperatures, and that has made life on the road difficult for many drivers.

It can, unless you are cautious, also make life on the road dangerous, especially if you find yourself outside your cab for any amount of time.

Hypothermia — abnormally low body temperature — is a very real threat this winter, one that can sneak up on you and cause major problems often with you even knowing it until it is too late.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says that in severe cold, your body loses heat faster than it can be produced. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making you unable to think clearly or move well.

Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if you become chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

These are the CDC’s warnings signs of hypothermia:

  • shivering, exhaustion
  • confusion, fumbling hands
  • memory loss, slurred speech
  • drowsiness

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, take the person’s temperature: below 95 degrees is dangerous and the person needs immediate medical attention.

If medical care is not available, get warm quickly. The CDC suggests:

  • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
  • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
  • Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible.