It may come as a surprise, but more people are affected by, and die from, hypothermia in summer and other seasons than in the winter. That may be due to people being more prepared and being more careful in winter.
Taking extra warm clothing with you at any time of the year can be a life saver. At the very least, it can allow you to be more comfortable.
It is important to learn the early signs of hypothermia so you can recognize it in yourself or companions.
Probably you and everyone you know as an outdoor enthusiast has had at least the preliminary stages of hypothermia. It used to be called “exposure” and is simply a situation where your body loses heat faster than it can create it, so your core temperature drops.
In its first stages it is really quite easy to deal with: just get dry, get warm, get out of the wind, and exercise (running on the spot or jumping jacks). In a short time you are back to normal and can continue with your activities.
Sadly, hypothermia affects the brain as well as the body, so you can easily miss or ignore the first stages, which can lead to a worsening situation, and, in the worst-case scenario, can lead to death.
Some simple, early symptoms are common and include shivering, goose bumps, chattering teeth and the feeling of being chilly down deep inside. If you remedy the condition at that point, everything gets better fast.
If you miss – or worse, ignore – those early symptoms, things go downhill quickly. The victim gets clumsy, can be staggering, have slurred speech, poor decision-making skills, and lose manual dexterity (can’t do up a button or a zipper, tie a shoelace).
It is absolutely critical that something be done for the victim without delay. Get them warm, get them dry, give them warm drinks, hug them and get them moving to increase circulation.
Do not give them alcohol, as it just makes the situation worse. If you act at this point or earlier, the situation can be dealt with, but delays at any point lead to a progressively worsening event.
Any further delays create a medical emergency where hospitalization is required and, if you are out in the boondocks, that is next to impossible without a very difficult-to-arrange emergency evacuation, which can be extremely expensive and totally avoidable with early intervention in the situation.
In any outdoor group activity, it should be every group member’s responsibility to pay attention for any hypothermia symptoms displayed by anyone in the group. It is more challenging to monitor your own condition, but just paying attention for the first signs may save your life.
Remember, if you deal with it at the first sign, it is over very quickly and you can carry on with your plans.