There are three stages of hypothermia:
Stage 1 - When your body temperature drops by 1 or 2ºC (1.8 or 3.6ºF), you start shivering, get goose bumps on your skin, and your hands become numb. Your breath can become quick and shallow, and you may feel tired and/or sick to your stomach. You may also experience a warm sensation, which means your body is entering stage 2 of hypothermia.
If you or someone you are with is experiencing symptoms of stage 1 hypothermia take the following actions immediately:
- find shelter
- keep your muscles moving
- dry and (gradually) warm your body
- wrap yourself in blankets/dry clothing or reheat your body by skin-to-skin contact with another person
- drink warm, sweet liquids
- don't fight shivering, this is one of the ways your body increases its core temperature
- if the person is unconscious lay them down and avoid shaking them or handling them roughly as they may have an arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)
Stage 2 - Your body temperature has dropped by 2 - 4ºC (3.8 - 7.6ºF) and your shivering is strong. Muscles are uncoordinated and movements are slow and laboured. You may suffer mild confusion, become pale, and your lips, ears, fingers, and toes may turn blue.
Stage 3 - If your body temperature drops below 32ºC (89.6ºF), the shivering will stop but you'll have trouble speaking, thinking, and walking. You may even develop amnesia. When your body temperature drops below 30ºC (86.0ºF), exposed skin becomes blue and puffy, it will be hard to move your muscles and your behaviour becomes irrational. Your heart may be beating quickly but your pulse and breathing will decrease. At this stage you are at risk of death.
Severe cases of hypothermia (such as stages 2 and 3) require immediate medical attention. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.