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How to survive extreme cold weather and hypothermia.

Brrr, there’s been some pretty cold nights and mornings these past few days. So, have you ever wondered how you would survive if you were caught out in the cold all night? Or what you should do to help someone recover from exposure to extreme cold?

As always, the elderly, the sick and the young are most at risk of danger from hypothermia in winter. Normal healthy people can become more susceptible if they’ve had any alcohol as it can affect your body’s ability to regulate its own temperature.

Hypothermia is defined as any point where your core body temperature drops below 35°C. Naturally if you have a smaller body, you don’t generate as much heat so if you’re a young child caught out in cold conditions without warm clothing, you can generate mild hypothermia quite quickly. If it’s raining or your clothes get wet, this can bring your body temperate down even faster. If you fall in the rain or collapse, serious hypothermia can set in very quickly if you are not discovered and treated.

But what are the signs and symptoms of hypothermia? Well, the person will be:

  • Often pale, very quiet and cold to the touch

  • (Babies and very young may be pale, drowsy and go off their food,)

  • They may alternate between shivering and then being stiff with cold

  • Their lips will be blue

  • Their heart rate and breathing rate will be slower than normal

  • They may become confused and disorientated and even lose consciousness

So how do you treat hypothermia and help the person recover quickly?

1. Remove any cold and/or wet clothing quickly

2. Replace it with warm, dry clothing

3. If you have a foil blanket get that on them immediately. It will help them retain body heat.

4. Cover up their heads too, with a hat or anything. (We lose a lot of body heat through our head!)

5. If you can heat the space they are in, with a heater or similar do so or get them inside a car and turn the heater on.

6. Give them a warm but NON-ALCOHOLIC drink. (No Brandy!)

What you are trying to do is warm their core temperature and to do so slowly and as naturally as possible. Do NOT put them in a hot bath or shower as this will tend to warm their extremities and can lead to burns as they won’t feel the heat in their hands, arms, legs, etc.

But whatever you do, you must keep a close watch on the person, because someone experiencing prolonged hypothermia can experience cardiac arrythmias which could lead to cardiac arrest.

Always call an ambulance or medical help if you have any concerns for the person.

If they lose consciousness but are still breathing, put them in the recovery position on their side. If they stop breathing, immediately apply CPR.

For more advice on first aid tips, read our other blogs or to get properly trained in first aid book a course at


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