Hiking Safety: Preventing and Treating Hypothermia

Hiking Safety: Preventing and Treating Hypothermia

Hikers should be mindful of the medical urgency of hypothermia because it can strike without warning. When your body begins to lose heat more quickly than it can generate it, a condition known as hypothermia occurs. This causes your body's core temperature to drop to a point where it interferes with normal function.

Everyone is aware that the normal body temperature is 98.6 F. When your body's core temperature falls below 95 F, hypothermia sets in. Your heart, neurological system, and other organs begin to malfunction and finally shut down when this occurs.

Although most people believe that hypothermia only occurs in the winter, hikers frequently experience this condition all year round, even in the summer.

Anyone can develop hypothermia with just a little change in the weather.

Contrary to popular perception, hypothermia can occur in temperatures above freezing. All it takes is for the temperature outside to be below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

It's not unusual for the temperature to drop 20 to 40 degrees at night while hiking. You can guarantee difficulties if you add an unforeseen thunderstorm. Hikers damp from perspiration and rain can quickly develop hypothermia once the evening temperatures drop.


Stages of Hypothermia

Stages       Signs
  • Shivering
  • Unable to perform tasks with hands
  • Hands become numb
  • Uncontrollable Shivering
  • Mental changes – confusion
  • Muscles impaired
  • Breathing becomes labored
  • Shivering stops
  • Skin Blue
  • Unable to walk
  • Muscles rigid incoherent
  • Irrational behavior
  • Semiconscious
  • Pulse and breathing decreases

Preventing & Treating Hypothermia While Hiking

Stay Hydrated: While it's more crucial to stay hydrated in extremely hot weather, doing so will also assist your body continue to function normally in colder climates. When your body temperature begins to drop and your organs are already working hard to keep you alive, this becomes extremely crucial.

Keeping yourself hydrated and well-fed can help maintain your core body temperature.

Keep Dry: As you approach nighttime, it's imperative to begin drying off. Take advantage of a final couple of hours before sundown to dry off or change into a dry pair of clothes if you've been swimming or are sweating profusely from a long day of hiking. It can be fatal to get wet before sleeping.

Reduce Heat Loss: If you're in outdoors, one of the first things you should do is try to keep your body from losing too much heat. By stuffing material inside your garment, you're attempting to protect your body from the elements. To protect yourself from the outside air, you can use anything from pine branches and leaves to dry grass and fibrous plant materials.

Add Heat: Start a fire right away if you can do so. You can warm up water bottles or heated pebbles that you can use to keep your sleeping bag warm all night long in addition to the instant heat the fire will give you.

Activity: After crawling into your sleeping bag, wriggle your toes, move your hands and arms, and make as much movement as you can. Increasing your physical activity by performing exercises like pushups and jumping jacks can help raise your core temperature if things start to go bad.

Transmit body heat: You can use your body heat to warm the body of a companion who is beginning to enter the danger zone. Skin-to-skin contact should be made while lying next to them without any clothing on. Then wrap blankets and other insulating things around both of your bodies.


Hopefully, these tips will help you to be prepared on how to prevent hypothermia from occurring in the first place. Always prepare for the worst when you go on a hike to reduce your chance of developing hypothermia. The easiest way to prevent hypothermia is to always bring a partner, and make sure you're both dressed warmly and prepared for any emergencies. If your clothing becomes wet from rain or sweat, change into dry clothes and put on warmer layers, especially if your shoes get wet. When hiking in cold weather, keep yourself well-fed and hydrated to maintain good physical condition. Don't be afraid to take breaks along the way to warm up by moving around, especially before heading out in cold temperatures. Above all else, find shelter and contact emergency personnel if none are immediately available.

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