Cold and hypothermia, experts say, go hand in hand. In fact, young children and older adults are more susceptible to this condition than other groups of people.
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce, causing a dangerously low body temperature.
Normally, normal body temperature should be 98.6 F (37 C) and hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C).
As for children, Dr. Raymond Awazi, a pediatrician in Kigali, explains that hypothermia can occur when their body temperature is (36.1°C (97°F) or lower.
In general, he explains that when the body temperature drops, the heart, nervous system and other organs cannot function normally.
More so, says Dr. Awazi, in some cases, if left untreated, hypothermia can lead to complete failure of the heart and respiratory system and possibly death.
What you should know
Dr Janvier Rusizana, a general practitioner at La Nouvelle Clinic in Remera, Kigali, explains that hypothermia is often caused by exposure to cold or immersion in cold water.
He says a person with hypothermia may be unaware of their condition because symptoms often start gradually.
According to Dr Rusizana, the chills are probably the first thing one can notice when suffering from hypothermia, explaining that at this point the temperature begins to drop due to his body’s automatic defense against the cold. (an attempt to warm up).
Other signs may also include; slurred speech or mumbling, slow shallow breathing, weak pulse, among other signs.
“Prolonged exposure to an environment colder than your body can lead to hypothermia. Also, if one does not dress properly in cold weather, it can lead to illness,” says Dr. Rusizana.
Other conditions that can lead to hypothermia include staying in the cold for too long; being unable to get rid of wet clothes or move to a warm, dry place, among other things.
Dr. Charles Sindabimenya, an internal medicine specialist at Doctors Plaza in Kimironko, says that when you’re older, you’re likely to be at risk for hypothermia.
He explains that this is so because the body’s ability to regulate temperature and sense cold can decrease with age. And that some older people may not be able to communicate when they are cold or move to a warm place if they are cold.
Dr Awazi says children are also at high risk because they lose heat faster than adults.
“Children may also ignore the cold because they play and don’t feel the need to move to a warmer place or dress properly when they should,” he says.
Other risk factors, doctors say, could also be alcohol and drug use. Dr. Sindabimenya explains that alcohol can make the body hot inside, but it causes blood vessels to expand, leading to faster heat loss from the surface of the skin.
He notes that there is evidence that the body’s natural response to chills is diminished in people who have drunk alcohol.
Additionally, he says, the use of alcohol or recreational drugs can affect a person’s judgment of whether to go inside or wear warm clothes in cold weather.
Studies indicate that people who develop hypothermia due to exposure to cold or cold water are also vulnerable to other cold-related injuries, including freezing of body tissues and the decay and death of tissues resulting from an interruption of blood flow.
Dr. Rusizana says the first treatments for hypothermia are methods of warming the body to a normal temperature.
He advises that during these cold seasons, parents should ensure that their children are dressed in warm clothes and that depending on the age of the child, covering their hands and feet is essential.
Also, he says it is necessary to stay away from activities that would cause you to sweat a lot, especially for the elderly, as the combination of wet clothes and cold weather has been shown to lead to heat loss. body faster.