Hypothermia Definition: What Is Hypothermia?

ID-100158158Hypothermia definition:

Hypothermia can be defined as “drop of core body temperature in an individual to below 35 degree Centigrade (or 95 degree Fahrenheit)”. The normal body temperature of an individual is 37 degree Centigrade or 98.4 degree Fahrenheit. Fall of body temperature below normal is not always considered or defined as hypothermia. For diagnosis of hypothermia, the body temperature should be below 35 degree Centigrade or 95 degree Fahrenheit. If body temperature is below normal (i.e. 37 degree Centigrade) but above 35 degree Centigrade, it is not hypothermia, but subnormal body temperature.

Once an individual’s core body temperature fall to hypothermic level (below 35 degree Centigrade) many physiological mechanisms which are present in normal human beings to conserve or preserve heat begins to fail and fall in body temperature increases further. When we feel cold we shiver, and shivering is a mechanism of heat conservation by our body physiology. When a person suffers from hypothermia, there may be no shivering in him, unlike a person who feels cold.

Hypothermia can be two types:

  1. Primary accidental hypothermia and
  2. Secondary hypothermia

Primary accidental hypothermia occurs in a previously healthy individual who get exposed to extreme cold. For example, occupational exposure to cold by soldiers (military history is full of tragedies due to cold injury including hypothermia, especially during World War-I and World War-II), sailors, fishermen fishing in cold climate, oil rig explorers in the arctic region, or by individuals who have hobbies in cold areas such as hunters, climbers, skiers etc. The exposure to cold may be due to sudden change in weather or lack of preparedness. If anybody works in extreme cold areas, he/she should be well prepared to face sudden weather change from normal to extreme cold to prevent cold injuries such as hypothermia.

Secondary hypothermia is due to complication of a serious systemic disorder and mortality is much higher due to secondary hypothermia. Systemic disorders that may lead to hypothermia complication include, severe anemia, malnutrition, hypothyroidism, dementia and other psychiatric illness. Elderly individuals and neonates (age of 4 weeks or less is called a neonate) are more susceptible to develop hypothermia.


Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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