Hypothermia

Kenai Fjords' rainy, cold, and windy weather make hypothermia (or lower than normal body temperature) one of the greatest potential dangers to park visitors. Extreme hypothermia can be life threatening. Hypothermia can result from cold ambient temperatures between 30 and 60 degrees F, especially when accompanied by wind or rain. Should you get wet, you must be aware that hypothermia will likely follow. Many people don't realize that once they are shivering or have numb fingers and/or toes, they are in the early stages of hypothermia.

The Best Way to Deal with Hypothermia...is to Avoid It!

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you're not thirsty. Avoid alcohol and coffee. Dehydration reduces blood volume and thus limits the body's ability to produce heat.

  • Eat high calorie foods throughout the day before you become exhausted and stay hydrated.

  • Wear layered clothing…shed layers when you get warm and add layers when you get cold. The goal is to avoid sweating, which cools the body. Choose wool or synthetic clothing and avoid cotton, which is useless as insulation once it gets wet.

  • Wear a hat…up to 25% of body heat is lost through your head.

  • Stay dry and seek shelter from the wind.

 

Know the Symptoms / Take Action

Initial signs and symptoms

  • shivering
  • skin numbness
  • difficulty using fingers
  • sensation of chilliness
  • lack of coordination
  • weakness
  • stumbling
  • slow pace
  • confusion and apathy

What to do in the early stages

  • move patient out of cold, wet or windy conditions.
  • remove wet clothing and replace with dry.
  • encourage patients to eat or drink if they can do so without significant assistance
  • rewarm quickly by exercising or moving.
  • provide a heat source - warming fire, radiant body heat, etc.

Signs of severe hypothermia

  • gross lack of coordination
  • slow thought and speech
  • amnesia
  • lack of shivering
  • inability to stand or walk
  • confusion/irrationality
  • muscle rigidity
  • loss of consciousness
  • apparent lack of heart beat or respirations

What to do in severe cases

Severe cases should be reported to Park Rangers, Alaska State Troopers, or other authorities to arrange for professional emergency medical care and transportation. Severe hypothermia is extremely life threatening and patients must be treated very carefully. The cold heart muscle may go into ventricular fibrillation unless the victim is handled very gently.

Last updated: December 27, 2017

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PO Box 1727
Seward, AK 99664

Phone:

(907) 422-0500

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