Hypothermia can take a bad situation and make it severely worse. It is caused when the body’s core temperature falls below 95.0 degrees (F). During any kind of winter survival scenario, it is vital to keep your body’s core temperature as close to normal as possible.
During mild hypothermia, you will begin to shiver, and mild confusion will begin to set in. You will find it hard to focus on anything but the cold. At this stage, it is a good idea to do some kind of mild calisthenics and fix a warm drink to help bring up your temperature.
During moderate hypothermia, the shivering will either stop or become violent, and your confusion will intensify, causing you to be unable to make decisions or focus. You will begin to experience muscle mis-coordination, and your movements will become slowed and labored. It is important at this stage to have a fire going and continue with calisthenics and warm drinks.
In the onset of severe hypothermia, your psychological systems will further decrease proper function, along with your heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
In cases of severe hypothermia, due to increased disorientation and confusion, victims have often experienced paradoxical undressing. Due to a malfunction in the hypothalamus, which regulates the body’s temperature or the relaxation of muscles contracting peripheral blood vessels, allowing warm blood to flow to cold extremities, victims take their clothes off because they feel hot. Some also experience terminal burrowing, a self-protective behavior where the mind seeks to burrow to safety like a hibernating animal.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY
When in a winter survival situation, we feel it is important to keep all our warm gear on and work hard to get our shelter and fire established. However, this can often lead to increased heat loss due to overheating and sweating.
It is important to pay attention to your body when working to establish a camp. If you are feeling too hot and are showing the early signs of perspiration, open your coat a little and slow down your pace. If you feel you are getting too cold, pick up the pace. It is a fine line, but it is important to keep track of your body’s temperature and keep it regulated. It is easier to keep hypothermia at bay than it is to fight it once it sets in.