HomeHealth TopicEnvironmental
01:12

What Are the Warning Signs of Hypothermia?

When your body loses heat faster than it’s produced, you’re at risk for hypothermia.

Marisa Taylor KarasMera Goodman, MD, FAAP
Published on October 18, 2022

Hypothermia is when your body temperature drops to an abnormally low level, and it can be a medical emergency. When you’re exposed to cold temperatures for long periods, your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. If this continues for too long, your body may use up all its stored energy.

When your body temperature gets too low, it may start to affect your brain, and you might have trouble recognizing that hypothermia is happening. Knowing the early signs of hypothermia can help you take action quickly, before the situation becomes dangerous — or even deadly.

What are the warning signs of hypothermia?

Some of the warning signs of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering, which signals that your body temperature is dropping

  • Fumbling, uncoordinated hands

  • Exhaustion, fatigue, and drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Memory loss

  • Slurred speech

In severe cases, hypothermia may eventually lead to unconsciousness or death.

What does hypothermia look like in babies?

Babies generally lose body heat more easily than adults. As a result, even sleeping in cold rooms can put them at risk for “relative hypothermia.” This refers to a state of low body temperature despite not being in freezing temperatures.

It’s important for parents to be familiar with signs of hypothermia in babies, especially because they can look different compared to hypothermia in adults. For example, very young infants may not have the ability to shiver.

Symptoms of relative hypothermia in babies may include:

  • Changes in skin color 

  • Skin that’s cold to the touch

  • Tired, lethargic appearance

When should you seek help for hypothermia?

If your temperature or someone else’s is below 95°F, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. 

You can also try to warm the person up by:

  • Removing any wet clothing

  • Taking the person to a warm, indoor area

  • Warming the person’s body with blankets or clothing, or using skin-to-skin contact

  • Offering warm, non-alcoholic drinks, which may help increase body temperature

Using submersion in hot water to treat hypothermia is tricky as it may cause the blood circulation to shift drastically. This could lead to several other issues, such as fainting. 

The bottom line

Hypothermia happens when the body reaches abnormally low temperatures, and it requires immediate medical attention. Some of the signs of hypothermia include shivering, fumbling hands, fatigue, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, and unconsciousness. Get medical attention if a person’s temperature is below 95°F, and warm the person with blankets, warm drinks, and removing any wet clothing.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Stay safe during and after a winter storm.

View All References (1)

Duong, H., et al. (2022). Hypothermia. StatPearls [Internet].

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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