This post was last updated on December 22, 2016\nFrostbite,\u00a0dangerous falls, and fires from\u00a0hazardous heat sources\u00a0are just a few of the perils faced during winter. Among cold-weather injuries,\u00a0hypothermia is especially dangerous.\nWhat Causes Hypothermia?\nHypothermia begins when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it.\nA mere 3.6\u00b0 F drop in body temperature (below 95\u00b0 F) requires immediate medical attention.\u00a0Inadequate protection from freezing temperatures\u00a0is an obvious cause. However, a wet chill is enough to make your body temperature drop, even if you are in an environment well above freezing.\nAs the body cools, brain activity slows. The gradual sleepiness and confusion that follow make the onset of hypothermia difficult to detect. Muddled thinking leads to poor judgment. In many cases, victims become irrational and their behaviors worsen the problem.\nOlder adults, especially those with dementia, and young children are less able to cope with extreme cold. Alcoholism and drug use impair judgment and interfere with the body’s internal heating system. Arthritis, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and other medical conditions compound the danger. Narcotics, sedatives, and\u00a0medications\u00a0used to treat depression and psychosis also increase the risk of hypothermia.\nHypothermia Symptoms and Signs\nYour brain alerts your body’s defenses against the cold. You shiver, develop goose bumps, and your skin goes pale. As the brain loses the fight, shivering becomes more intense. Extreme fatigue, slurred speech, and memory loss require urgent medical attention. Other symptoms of hypothermia include:\n\nDizziness\nHunger\nIncreased heart rate\nWeak pulse\nNausea\nApathy\nShallow breathing\n\nHow Cold Does It Have to Be for Hypothermia to Set In?\nYou may be surprised to learn that hypothermia can occur at any temperature that is lower than normal body temperature. In fact, hypothermia occurs after your core body temperature drops below 95\u00b0 F.\nThe body\u2019s response to hypothermia can vary based on a variety of factors, including a person\u2019s age, body fat percentage, and level of alcohol consumption. Exposure to water can quicken the effects of hypothermia, as well.\nSevere hypothermia can occur when the body\u2019s core temperature drops below 82\u00b0 F.\nFrostbite vs. Hypothermia\nBoth frostbite and hypothermia are emergencies that occur due to prolonged exposure to cold conditions \u2014 and both could be limb or life-threatening if not quickly addressed.\n\n\nFrostbite is the freezing of a specific body part, such as the fingers or earlobes. Signs of frostbite include skin that is cold to the touch, waxy in texture, or discolored.\nHypothermia is a drop in the body\u2019s core temperature because it is unable to warm itself. Signs include shivering, numbness, unconsciousness, and a glassy-eyed stare.\n\n\nYou may be surprised to learn that hypothermia can occur at any temperature that is lower than normal body temperature. In fact, hypothermia occurs after your core body temperature drops below 95\u00b0 F.\nHypothermia Effects\nThe effects of hypothermia can range from mild to severe. Keep in mind, those affected by hypothermia are likely unaware they are suffering from the condition.\n\nMild hypothermia symptoms include dizziness, nausea, increased heart rate, and difficulty sleeping.\nAs your body temperature declines, moderate hypothermia symptoms may begin to set in. These include progressive loss of consciousness, significant confusion, slurred speech, and a weak pulse.\nSigns of severe hypothermia include unconsciousness and shallow or no breathing.\n\nHow to Treat Hypothermia\nFirst aid for hypothermia\nBegin treatment by calling for emergency assistance and finding warm shelter. If the victim is not breathing, provide CPR until help arrives. Focus on warming the center of the body\u00a0first. It is dangerous to warm the extremities too quickly. If you suspect hypothermia, call for assistance and:\n\nGently relocate the victim to warm shelter.\nRemove all wet clothing.\nApply heat to the body’s center, from the neck to the pelvis. Avoid using heating pads, hot water bottles, or any localized heat.\nUse an electric blanket when possible. Even body heat from skin-to-skin contact will help warm the body’s core temperature.\nGive the victim warm drinks \u2014 but not alcohol.\n\nMedical treatment for hypothermia\nThe specific type of medical treatment you receive for hypothermia depends on the severity of the condition.\u00a0 Treatments may include:\n\nBlood re-warming, in which blood is drawn from the body, re-warmed, and then re-circulated into the system.\nIrrigation, in which a warm saltwater solution is used to heat specific areas of the body.\nWarm intravenous fluids may be injected into the veins to warm blood.\n\nWhat is re-warming shock?\nWhen a person with hypothermia is warmed, they may experience a drop in blood pressure, known as re-warming shock. The exact cause of this condition is not known.\nHow to Prevent Hypothermia\nPrevention is the best defense against hypothermia, so dress for the weather. Layered clothing, headgear, gloves, and well-insulated shoes and socks are essential when temperatures drop below freezing. Be careful to avoid sweating when shoveling snow or engaging in other activities in the cold. Stock your car with plenty of blankets, food, water, and spare medications.\nPreparation and caution will keep the dangers of winter at bay.