Being a hiker, climber, trekker or camping enthusiast involves preparing for the worst, but when you come face to face with deadly conditions, how do you react? The great outdoors is a wonderful place to explore but at the flip of a coin, the weather can change and your benign and beautiful route can suddenly become a hostile place to be.
Waterman's Country Supplies will guide you through the symptoms, treatments and preventative measures to tackle hypothermia.
What Is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is defined as a drop in core temperature that results in your body losing heat more rapidly than it's generated. It's caused primarily by an exposure to cold temperatures, over-exertion, lack of food or fluid as well as external factors such as an absence of shelter. Although cold weather is seen as the most obvious cause, wet and windy conditions also prove to be a big risk when it comes to developing hypothermia.
Hypothermia symptoms range from mild to severe:
In mild symptoms, look out for shivering, slurred speech, slowed physical and mental response, loss of coordination and impaired dexterity.
In more severe cases, shallow breath or total loss of breathing may occur as well as a weak or uneven pulse, dilated pupils, rigid muscles, pale skin and loss of consciousness.
How Do You Prevent Hypothermia?
Check The Forecast: Referring to an up-to-date version of the weather forecast before you leave the house will give you a better idea of how to prepare for your big walk. If the conditions are too adverse, consider whether it's safe to go ahead with your plans or postpone for another day.
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings: Your best allies when traversing the countryside are common sense and self awareness. Knowing your limits and recognising when you're becoming tired will prevent you from falling into dangerous situations. If temperatures are dropping or a storm's on the horizon, take shelter.
Wear & Use Clothing Appropriately:
Layering is the foundation of any great outdoor dress code: Being able to strip off layers will help your body adapt to many different conditions quickly and easily. If you need to be physical you can easily remove your outer layer or if the weather gets colder you can start adding layers to stay warm.
Layering shouldn't be seen as a way of simply bulking out your hiking outfit. Consider high quality materials that work effectively as part of a cohesive clothing structure - this will ensure you always have mobility as well as comfort and warmth when you need it most.
Attend to your extremities: Heat is lost through your head, hands and feet - you should consider these your three warning signs when conditions take a turn for the worst.
Don't over-dress: over-exertion and over-dressing can lead to excessive sweating, lowering your body temperature. So when layering always think in terms of quality over quantity.
Take short breaks: The longer you stay static, the more you'll feel the colder and the quicker your body temperature will drop. Always consider where and when is the best time to have a rest, put on an extra outer layer, take shelter and then move on.
Food and water: During the day eat high-energy snacks and refuel regularly throughout your hike. Your final meal of the day should always be high in proteins and fats which are typically slower to digest, regulating your body temperature as you sleep. Drinking plenty of water is just as important in the cold as it is in hot weather, protecting you from hypothermia and maintaining good cognitive function.
Hypothermia is a very serious medical condition and can lead to death. In the first instance always contact the emergency services, however if you need to keep safe before help arrives, you can rewarm and protect you or your fellow hiker from further heat loss with these useful tips:
- Find or create a suitable shelter
- Remove damp, wet clothing and replace with something warm and dry
- Protect yourself from the elements in a well insulated sleeping bag with camping mat
- Hydrate and snack - if possible, drink warm water to raise your body temperature.
- Focus on reheating the chest, stomach, head, neck and groin - prioritising these areas over extremities