For parents who live in cold-weather regions, the risk of hypothermia is real. Environmental factors can make you and your child’s risk for hypothermia increase significantly. The best way to combat the risk of hypothermia is to get informed about what hypothermia is, how to treat it, and how you can prevent hypothermia from happening to your child.
What Is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a very serious medical emergency that happens when your body loses heat faster than it produces heat (Mayo Clinic). When your body loses heat too quickly it can cause problems that need to be addressed immediately. Your nervous system doesn’t function properly, organs begin to shut down, your respiratory system and heart will slow down as well. If left untreated, hypothermia can cause frostbite. This occurs when tissues in the body have completely died and lose functionality. In extreme cases, hypothermia can lead to death.
What Are The Signs Of Hypothermia?
The good news is that hypothermia is easily treatable and there are early warning signs. These signs include:
- Slurred speech or muttering
- Slow breathing
- Lowered pulse
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or low energy
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
- Bright red, cold skin (in infants)
Since hypothermia happens gradually, people are often unaware they are experiencing hypothermia. It’s important for people to be aware of the early warning signs to prevent a medical emergency.
What Causes Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is often caused by exposure to a cold environment. A cold environment can be made dangerous with additional environmental factors such as a cold wind or being wet. These can dramatically change a person’s ability to withstand the cold weather and, if left unchecked, can lead to hypothermia.
How To Treat Hypothermia
If hypothermia symptoms are mild, treatment is fairly easy to implement. The first step is to always relocate the person to a warmer location. Once that is done, things like removing any cold, wet clothing and replacing them with dry, warm layers can help a lot. Other treatment options include drinking a hot beverage and using blankets. However, if the onset of hypothermia has become severe, seek medical attention immediately.
What Parents Need To Know About Hypothermia
Some cold environmental factors parents often don’t think about is how cold a baby or child’s room is, how cold a car is in the winter, and outside play in the cold weather. These are common environments that can lead to hypothermia if left unchecked. Babies and children lose heat more quickly than adults do, so being attentive to their environment is critical to preventing hypothermia. The smaller the child, the more quickly hypothermia has the potential to take effect.
What Can Parents Do?
Hypothermia can lead to more serious health problems in babies and small children so it is critical that parents be mindful of their child’s environment and their clothing. The general rule of thumb for dressing a child is to wear one additional layer to whatever an adult would comfortably wear. For example, if the weather requires an adult to simply wear a jacket to be comfortable, the child will need a sweater and a jacket to be comfortable outside. In addition to wearing warm layers, parents need to also pay attention to the early warning signs of hypothermia and get their child to a warmer location when needed.
Creating a safe, warm sleeping environment can be a little more challenging. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping blankets and other loose items out of the crib until at least 12 months of age. This means parents need to use warm sleepwear and keep the room at a constant temperature to keep their sleep environment safe and comfortable.
Being Proactive About Hypothermia
For the parents who are concerned about hypothermia in children, the recommendation is to monitor the child’s temperature regularly. This can be done easily with a LoveyQ wearable baby monitor. This wearable monitor lets parents know what the temperature of their child is and alerts parents if there are concerns. This can help parents to prevent the onset of hypothermia when it becomes difficult to gauge how cold the child is. Whether the child is sleeping or playing outside the monitor can give valuable insight into the overall health and well being of the child. It can even alert parents to problems before the symptoms begin which is the key to prevention in hypothermia.
Hypothermia – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2020, April 18). Mayo Clinic.
Christiano, D. (2020, November 6). Identifying and Treating a Low Body Temperature in Babies. Healthline: Parenthood.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). Safe Sleep: Recommendations.