News from St John - 25 Jul 2023

Hypothermia is a term Queenslanders aren’t too familiar with, but with temperatures dropping over winter we thought an explainer on how to treat this life-threatening condition was well overdue.  

What Is Hypothermia? 

Hypothermia you may think only happens in cold countries when in fact it can happen to anyone, anywhere. With the onset of winter, Queenslanders are exposed to colder, wetter and windier weather conditions.

Hypothermia is a condition which is triggered when the body’s warning abilities are overwhelmed or fail. This causes the body temperature to drop below 35 degrees Celsius, which is under the normal average of 37.  

You could find yourself in a situation where hypothermia arises and if the condition is not identified and managed within the early stages, it could potentially be life-threatening. 

Warning signs:  

  • Feeling cold 
  • Shivering 
  • Clumsiness and slurred speech 
  • Apathy and irrational behaviour 

As the body temperate continues to drop, look for the following signs:  

  • Shivering usually stops 
  • Pulse may be difficult to find 
  • Heart rate may slow 
  • Level of consciousness continues to decline. 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Irregular heart rhythm 

Who is at risk? 

  • Pay extra attention to children and the elderly in cold, wet, or windy environments. Children and the elderly are more vulnerable to colder temperatures and may not be able to tolerate conditions as well as adolescents and adults. 
  • Always ensure babies are dressed weather appropriately. Babies can become hypothermic in temperatures which adults would not be impacted by. 

To help a patient suffering from Hypothermia – follow these steps: 

1. Danger, Response, Send, Airway, Breathing, CPR, Defib.

2. Move the person to a warm, dry place. 

3. Help the patient to lie down in a comfortable position. Handle the person gently when moving – avoid excess activity or movement. 

4. Remove any wet clothing. 

5. Place the person in a blanket or sleeping bag and wrap them in an emergency blanket. 

6. Cover the head to retain as much body heat as possible. 

7. If conscious, give the patient warm drinks (NOT alcohol) 

8. Provide warmth to the person with hot water bottles or heat packs to the neck, armpits and groin – be careful to avoid burns  

9. If hypothermia is severe, call Triple Zero and stay with the person until medical aid arrives. 

Why First Aid is important?  

At the beginning of winter, people are often unprepared for the harsh weather conditions approaching.  

When leaving the house ensure you have taken all the preventative measures listed above to avoid falling susceptible to hypothermia or frostbite. 

Our First Aid courses offer comprehensive training on how to treat conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite.