Hypothermia (hy-puh-THUR-me-uh) is a medical emergency that occurs when the body is exposed to cold temperatures and loses heat faster than it can produce it. A person is considered hypothermic when body temperature drops to 95ºF (35ºC) or less.
Hypothermia is dangerous because when body temperature is too low, the organs can't function properly. Without treatment, organ failure and even death can occur.
Exposure to cold weather, and especially cold water, can lead to hypothermia. Babies and older people are at increased risk. Signs of hypothermia include constant shivering, confusion, clumsiness, drowsiness, slurred speech, and a weak pulse. Many people with hypothermia don't know they're in trouble because the symptoms appear slowly and affect their ability to think clearly.
Hypothermia can be prevented in wintertime by dressing appropriately for the weather and keeping skin dry. If you suspect someone has hypothermia, go to the emergency room or call 911. While waiting for help, you can move the person to a warm, dry location, remove wet clothing, and attempt to warm him or her with blankets.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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