How Long Can Your Body Handle The Cold Before Hypothermia?

Thursday, February 3rd 2011, 7:17 pm
By: News 9

Jacqueline Sit, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- With the frigid weather and bitter wind chills, how long can your body handle these temperatures when hypothermia kicks in?

John Graham has been an EMSA paramedic for 15 years and seen his share of patients suffering from hypothermia, which is a sudden drop in normal body temperature.

"I've seen a few. Unfortunately one is too many but we see a number of them and most of them are accidents," said Graham.

Accidents like the truck that plunged from the Will Rogers Turnpike into an icy river Thursday morning killing three people and injuring six others is a good example, though there is no word yet if hypothermia is the cause of the deaths. But Graham said since heat is lost more quickly in water than on land, hypothermia can set in in a matter of minutes and even seconds and affects people of all ages.

"It depends on the person. The elderly can't last nearly as long because they can't regulate their body temperatures as well," said the EMSA paramedic.

As the body temperatures drop, the symptoms include shivering, sluggish thinking and difficulty speaking.

"Your body starts to shut down blood to the outside and wants to keep it to your core for your heart, lungs and brain and it will progress if not caught to frank unresponsiveness and into death," said Graham.

If you have signs of hypothermia and you're conscious, the most important thing to do is to get yourself out of the elements and keep yourself warm with blankets and hand warmers.