Hypothermia

The Dawn to Dusk adventure race in SLO (April 2015) was exciting to watch, but medically boring… which is good. Barely a stubbed toe to report.

That said, the kayak leg definitely posed the greatest threats. Many boats and racers were munched by the waves on Grover Beach. But my bigger concern was hypothermia. So I thought I’d list some red flags and happy words to help assess what cold is too cold.

Red Flags:

• Loss of motor control
• Confusion
• Slurred speech
• Absent shivering

Happy Words

• “I still want to keep racing even though my teeth are chattering and my lips are blue.”

If someone’s shivering, while still thinking and moving properly, their prognosis is great. Changing from wet clothes and getting out of the wind is cutting edge therapy. Assisting the body to rewarm itself this way is called “passive rewarming.”

“Active rewarming” is the use of external sources of heat to rewarm. Low budget approaches include a car’s heater or a cup of tea. More vigorous measures include warmed IV fluids or the Bair Hugger found in most ERs.

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