What is hypothermia and how to identify it

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Hypothermia is when the core body temperature drops below 95 degrees.

Bundle up! Temperatures in the teens return Tuesday, Dec.10. (Photo: Pixaby)

"Obviously, when you get cold, everyone shivers, and your lips might turn blue, that type of thing," said Dr. Taylor Kapsch, a Family Physician at Creekside Medical Clinic. "People might feel like they're not able to talk as effectively as they were in a warm environment. Things are getting fairly serious, they start to get confused, they start to get sleepy, sometimes people pass out, if the body temperature drops below a certain level, like 80-82 degrees Fahrenheit, there's a risk for the heart stopping."

Certain people are at a greater risk for hypothermia than others-- including children because they have less body fat, adults with chronic medical conditions and people who take certain medications.

Dr. Kapsch says drugs and alcohol do not necessarily speed up the process of hypothermia, but rather, you may not be as fully aware of the drop in your core body temperature-- you might not feel cold because those substances can mask the symptoms.

Kapsch says hypothermia doesn't have a set time that it creeps into the body, but the duration of exposure, temperature, and other variables are the important factors.

"If you think that someone is at danger for hypothermia, certainly getting them into a warm environment, giving them warm blankets, maybe something warm to drink if they're able to drink are certain situations that are going to help someone who is at risk or that you think has hypothermia," said Kapsch.

The best way to prevent hypothermia is to stay inside when the temperatures drop, but if you have to be outside, make sure to wear appropriate clothing.