Hypothermia is a condition that develops when the body temperature reaches below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Your core body temperature is typically kept between about 98 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This internal temperature is regulated by the hypothalamus, and your body constantly works to retain an internal environment that is consistent. However, some situations can throw the body out of homeostasis and cause the internal body temperature to drop drastically. If you expose the body to extremely cold temperatures for a long period of time, then you may develop hypothermia. For example, if you fall in a lake during an ice fishing trip or if you do not wear a jacket outside when the weather reaches below freezing, then you may be at of risk of developing the condition.
Also, drugs and alcohol can increase your hypothermia risks and so can certain ailments like diabetes and thyroid disease. These diseases, as well as cold temperatures, can force the body to release more heat. Heat loss causes the drop in body temperature and most of the loss occurs through the skin and lungs.
Hypothermia can produce a wide range of symptoms, so it is wise to watch closely for any signs of distress if you expose your body to cold temperatures. If you have mild hypothermia, then you will likely shiver a great deal. Shivering is your body's way of creating heat. When you feel cold and the body temperature decreases, your muscles start to tighten up and then loosen again. This creates heat and helps the body fight off the hypothermia. You may start to feel a bit tired as you shiver, since your body is exerting so much energy to try to warm you up. Your heart will beat faster as well and you may notice yourself breathing more quickly.
If you continue to expose your body to the cold, then you may start to feel confused, uncoordinated, and numb across the extremities. Confusion will worsen and you may find it difficult to concentrate or understand what you should do. Also, you may engage in something called paradoxical undressing. This occurs when the nerves across the body become damaged by the cold. Your body will feel quite hot when this happens and you may start to remove your clothing in your confused state.
Hypothermia can easily be avoided in most cases. Dressing appropriately when going outside is the best way to keep hypothermia at bay. You want to protect all parts of the body from cold exposure. Layering clothing is wise and you should wear thick socks and boots to protect your feet. Waterproof gloves as well as a hat that fully covers your head and ears are good choices as well. Scarves and heavy winter jackets should be worn outdoors too, and you should try to stay as dry as possible.
If you do need to go outside when it is extremely cold out, then try not to exert yourself too much. Minimize physical activity, because this can cause you to sweat a great deal. Sweating can cause your clothes to become wet and this can increase your hypothermia risks. If you need to shovel snow or want to go on a snowmobile adventure, then take a break from the cold at least once every hour. Replace clothing often and make sure to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.