You would assume that the cold, snowy environment for most deaths due to low core temperature (hypothermia) is a mountain. But this isn’t the case. The majority of individuals die in cities – some even inside their homes. In fact, there are fatalities in Florida nearly every year—sometimes as far away as Hawaii.

There must be something else that contributes to a low body temperature in the winter.

There is.

The first thing to check is whether the temperature outside is cold enough. It just has to be chilly enough for you to lower your own 98.6 degrees. Typically, an air temperature of less than 50 degrees is required. However, this isn’t always the case.

Even if the temperature is higher, there are other elements that put you at risk. Here are a few more examples to consider.


1. Being young or old.

Even as young as age 65, the temperature regulators don’t function effectively in either direction. Additionally, because children under the age of three have more skin surface than body mass, they need to remove heat from a larger surface area.

Furthermore, before anyone notices, the cold may sneak up on these age groups.

2. Alcohol and Drugs.

Acetone and alcohol dull your senses (especially if you pass out, to be honest). Alcohol also expands surface veins I spoke about in the last post, making your skin all warm and rosy but lowering heat for your vital organs.

3. Getting wet.

Water conducts heat 30 times faster than air. This means that you feel colder and suffer frostbite at greater temperatures than when dry. Every year, boating accidents kill dozens of people. That explains the majority of fatalities in Florida and Hawaii. Your body temperature can drop dangerously low in any water below about 91 degrees F, regardless of how cold it is. Of course, the cooler the water, the sooner it happens.

Get out of those wet clothes immediately. Dress in layers before leaving the house to allow for greater air circulation. If you become too hot, take off a layer until the air circulates better.

4. Chronic diseases.

Thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease, cardiac problems, and severe infections are examples of a variety of conditions that effect your body’s heat regulation. People with these conditions can’t keep themselves as warm as others.

5. Trauma victims.

If you’re caring for a trauma victim, remember to use whatever’s available to cover them with a covering. Remove the person as well from wet clothing. Trauma can mess with the body’s temperature regulators. Furthermore, because of pain or an altered mental state, the victim may not be aware how cold he or she is becoming.

Please enter any comments or have had hands-on experience with hypothermia below.

The next blog will discuss symptoms—when to suspect that the body temperature is falling dangerously low. I’ll go through hypothermia treatment in the post after that.

Photo Credit: Illarion Prianishnikov (1840–1894), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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