Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature (i.e., the temperature of the heart, lungs, and brain) drops to 35°C (95°F) or lower. Hypothermia becomes a life-threatening condition when the core temperature drops below 28°C (82.4°F). People with smaller body types, lower overall body weights, and lower body-fat content are much more likely to experience hypothermia. Hypothermia can occur at any time of year, with young children and the elderly being most at risk.

Common Causes

The following may lead to hypothermia:

• Sweating while outdoors in cold weather

• Cold, wet, windy conditions

• Cold-water immersion, especially in water below 10°C (50°F)

• Dehydration

• Taking medications to eliminate water from the body


The following tips will help to prevent hypothermia:

• Prepare for activities in cold environments by wearing appropriate


  • Wear a hat and clothing made of tightly woven fibres (e.g., wool, fleece), which provide insulation and allow moisture transmission from the skin to the external environment.

  • Avoid cotton because it soaks up water and stays wet.

  • Wear clothing in layers so that they can be added or removed according to the weather conditions and exercise intensity. Remove some clothing before working to reduce the amount of sweat and keep clothing dry.

• Keep clothing dry. If clothing gets wet, change into dry clothing as

soon as possible.

• Carry and consume high-energy foods that have a lot of sugar.

• Drink plenty of warm, high-calorie drinks to help fuel heat

production. If high-calorie drinks are not available, drink plenty of

water to at least keep from becoming dehydrated.

• Do not drink alcohol.

• Take frequent breaks from the cold to let the body warm up.

• Increase your activity level, add insulation, add a heat source, or get

out of the cold if shivering occurs.

• Be careful around cold water and always wear a personal flotation

device (PFD).

What to Look For

Levels of Cold Stress

Cold Stress (Not Hypothermic)

• Shivering

• Normal mental status

• Able to care for self

Mild Hypothermia

• Vigorous shivering; complaining of the cold

• Decreased physical function

• Difficulty taking care of self

Moderate Hypothermia

• Weak and intermittent shivering or shivering that later stops

• Sometimes complaining of the cold

• Lack of coordination or speech; confused or unusual behaviour

• Impaired judgment

• Possible unresponsiveness

Severe Hypothermia

• Shivering has stopped

• Unresponsiveness; breathing has slowed down or stopped

• Body feels stiff

• No pulse

NOTE: The information provided above is not a substitute for first aid and CPR/AED training – get trained today and get empowered.


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