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Hypothermia is a dangerous condition in which the body temperature falls below 95 degrees and it is usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold.

The onset of symptoms is usually slow; there is likely to be a gradual loss of both mental and physical performance. Symptoms include lethargy, confusion, drowsiness, loss of coordination, pale and cold skin, shock, shallow breathing, slurred speech, uncontrollable shivering and weakness.

Very old, very young and very lean people are most prone to hypothermia. However those who have heart problems, bad circulation or are hungry, tired or under the influence of drugs/alcohol are also prone to the condition.

If you are with a person who is experiencing hypothermia, it is important that you provide him/her with first aid immediately. Get the victim out of the cold handling him/her gently and call an ambulance. If the person is not breathing perform CPR. Try to keep the victim warm without using direct heat and if conscious, give him/her warm, sweetened, non-alcoholic fluids. Stay with the victim until medical help arrives.

Hypothermia can be prevented by wearing suitable clothing in cold temperatures. Suitable clothing includes mittens (not gloves), wind-proof and water resistant jackets, many layers of clothing on top of each other and a scarf. If you know you are going to be in the cold, do not drink alcohol or smoke and have a good meal beforehand. If caught in a severe snowstorm, find shelter immediately.