Hypothermia – How To Prevent It


Hypothermia and cold injury. It can occur whenever air temperature is below freezing (32 degrees F).

Freezing of the skin surface is called ‘frost nip‘. When freezing extends deeper though the skin and flesh, the injury is called ‘frostbite‘.

Hypothermia can be a life threatening condition. It happens when deep-body (core) temperature falls below 95°F (normally ~ 98.6°F).

Tips How to Prevent Hypothermia

Body core temperature falls when the body cannot produce heat fast enough to compensate for what is being lost.

Quick Tip: Heat Loss Through The Head: At rest, the body core loses about 7 percent of its heat through the head. While shivering, core body heat loss through the head increases to as much as ~ 50 percent.

Stay hydrated. Because a dehydrated body will slow blood circulation.

Avoid smoking. Nicotine will constrict the blood vessels.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine. It can lead to dehydration.

Stay active. If cold, it’s better to be active than to huddle up.

Avoid sweating. Heat production is increased by physical activity, but avoid sweating.

Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals will lead to slower metabolism and blood flow.

Wear the right clothes the right way.

Too much clothing can cause overheating and dehydration. Layers.

Avoid tight fitting clothing.

Clothes should be worn loose and in layers.

Clothing should be made of material that water vapor can pass through. Synthetics.

Avoid 100 percent cotton. Use synthetic fabrics for wicking moisture.

Use water and wind resistant outerwear. Nylon, Gore-Tex.

Change socks. They absorb moisture after awhile. Keep your feet dry.

Protect your hands. Mittens are usually better than gloves.

Cover your head. Wear a hat!

Use insulated hats and gloves made with materials such as Thinsulate.

[ Read: Thinsulate – How It Works – Warmth Scale ]

Stay Dry. Dry. Dry.

A very lean person is more susceptible to cold (fat is an insulator).

Self Check by pinching your fingernail to watch how fast the blood returns to your finger.

Avoid being alone in the very cold. Buddy system.

Keep an eye on your children who don’t know about the dangers of cold.

Keep a survival kit nearby. Include a means to make fire.

Know how to build a fire. How to procure tinder and kindling in wet conditions.

Understand wind chill and avoid windy places.

[ Read: Windchill Frostbite Chart ]

Buddy system. Occasionally check the visible skin of the other person. It’s normal for skin to go red in cold. But if the red turns to white patch, hold (don’t massage) something warm on it.

Before passing out, someone with hypothermia can start to act “drunk” and move and talk irrationally.

Move and wiggle your fingers and toes.


Handwarmers. Tow Warmers. Slip them into your gloves and boots.

[ Read: Hand Warmers For My Winter Survival Kits ]

Any more ideas how to avoid and prevent hypothermia?


  1. Even here in “paradise” hypothermia can be deadly. Many areas that drop into low 40s and lower overnight here. Get rained on, caught on a remote hiking trail without the stuff you should really have with you and you are in trouble.that or in the ocean, yea,its warmer, but a few hours bobbing around after losing a kayak or a boating incident and you are toast, if you dont get eaten by something.

  2. Well as an EMT and Wilderness EMT I will suggest high energy foods. If you are shivering your body is running 7 times normal metabolic rate. Agreed, warm them up but never share body heat unless it’s with a rescue dog. If you share body heat we have two patients, not one. Hand,foot warmers for feet, groin, neck, armpit where blood vessels are close to the surface. Also consider warm jello to drink, high sugar for energy and warming fluid.
    Thats my two cents from training.

  3. – A lifetime ago, stationed in West Germany with the Army, I spent a good bit of time in and near a little village called Fulda. For more normal people, the Fulda Gap is the pass in the Caucasus mountains, which divide Europe from Asia (and which Caucasians are incidentally named after) where every armed invasion from the time of Attila the Hun has passed.

    There were several times we were out in cold that put us in the purple part of Ken’s windchill scale. Staying warm? We were taught the acronym COLD.
    CLEAN, keep yourself and your clothes and other gear clean as best you can.

     OVERHEATING, overworking, overdoing, whatever causes sweating, which causes freezing when you stop. Take your time.

    LAYERS, you can take off a layer or more when you are working hard. I have worn a tee-shirt while working in a wind chill of minus – 15 without getting sweaty and cold. As soon as I started to cool off, of course, I was getting back into my many layers.

    Last of all, and most important, DRY if you are wet, you will freeze. The only way around that is to get out of wet clothes, dry yourself off and into dry clothes, or you will be a cold casualty.

    -Papa S.

    1. – You are better off naked and dry than wearing a wet artic parka and full gear. Wool will help, but it is not a cure-all.
      And just by the way, I have eaten more than one of those 100-degree watermelons straight from the field, as well. Good Times!
      – Papa

  4. Wear your mask
    .I had worn mine to the store today (when my truck wouldn’t start) which kept my face from frostbite with a windchill of 32 below, and it caused warmer air to my lungs, cheeks, mouth, and nose. Only drawback is the filter on my mask only allows so much air in, so I was out of breath trying to get home faster.

  5. At the second highest USAF radar site in the CONUS (8995 ft.) we experienced
    pair temps of 25-30 degrees below and sustained winds of 100 knots plus.
    The only way to stay alive was to stay inside and listen to the building make spooky noises.

    Extreme cold will kill you much quicker than extreme heat.
    Bonus points for anyone that knows where I’m talking about.
    Hint. 865th.ACWS. 1966-1969.

  6. Good advice, Ken.

    Experience from a lifetime in the frostbite zone, years of alpine mountaineering, and decades of wilderness SAR: Dry, dry, dry. Avoid all cotton – not just 100% (exceptions for skivvies and handkerchiefs). Head covering is the first thing to go on and (about) last to come off. White, waxy flesh is frozen; rubbing it will cause the ice crystals to destroy cells. Signs of hypothermia are easy to miss and common enough even well outside of the frostbite zone that we all should be on the outlook for it. The elderly are especially susceptible.

    From personal experience, I’d stress the importance of hydration to avoid both hypothermia and frostbite/nip. Dehydration thickens the blood, reduces profusion (blood flow into the tissues), and slows exchange of metabolites back and forth. Dark, odorous urine is a sign of dehydration. The risk of rewarming hypothermia patients too quickly is all those metabolites lying stale in peripheral tissues being dumped suddenly back into the blood stream.

  7. We got a cold front headed our way in the next 3 days. My truck is ready, One more run for paper products and other items and I will be all set. The worst thing about extreme cold in my mind is that you can spend time, money and energy getting yourself, your home and car ready for an oncoming storm front only to be hit by an automobile driven by a person driving on bald tires, possibly intoxicated. I am surrounded by flat-landers.

    Another reason to avoid crowds and larger cities.

    In addition to carrying a certain amount of water on me or in my truck, I also like to bring several small thermoses filled with hot water so I can make tea or coffee on the road/in my truck. Have an insulated mug and you are good to go. I no longer climb mountains. Now I am just an old guy living in the suburbs that still drives into a city in order to work. Cold weather, snow and icy roads is another thing to deal with during my work week this week.

  8. Many here have mentioned hydration. I find myself using 2x as much skin lotion at this time of year compared to the rest of the year. I also find myself using lots of chapstick as well. For really cold weather, I like using the moisturizers that are almost pasty in consistency like Eucerin on exposed skin of my face. Other than that, I use zinc oxide on my face and chin when on snow and ice. It protects against sun and wind damage.

  9. Curiosity question…..
    “Normal” body temperature is considered to be 98.6, tho’ we know it can vary by person. Hypothermia can set in at 95 degrees.
    If my “normal” is 96.7, does that mean I’m only 1.7 degrees from hypothermia, or can I get down to as low as 93.1 before being considered hypothermic?

    Went to a doctor’s appointment yesterday, and on check-in they said my temp was 95.7. Admittedly, it was bitter cold out, but I’d just come in from a toasty warm car, was dressed for the weather, and felt quite comfortable. Double checked when I got back home and my thermometer registered it’s usual 96.7. Could I be more susceptible to hypothermia because I run low to begin with, or do I have more room to drop below 95 because of it? Just got me thinking after reading this article, and couldn’t find anything online one way or the other.


    1. My normal temp runs at 96.8. Mom’s was the same. I’ve worked outside in the cold with no coat and had no problems at all. Taking into consideration that I haven’t taken my temperature after I come inside, I would guess that it’s a range rather than an absolute.

    2. Finally,
      Just my input.
      I also run very low baseline temp. mine 96.8 several different times. To get your true baseline, take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed for one week. write them down and average them over the 7 days. There are health risks associated with low temperatures. to find what they are go to u a search… know they are there but do not remember details.. check out nes by… dr’s Jockers, Berg , channel called “HealthMade”. something abut it making favorable environment for virus and bacteria….There are ways to raise your baseline temp to normal. I have not done it..

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