Hypothermia: Abnormally low body temperature. The condition needs treatment at body temperatures of 35C (95 F) or below. And hypothermia becomes life threatening below body temperatures of 32.2 C (90 F).

The signs and symptoms of hypothermia depend upon the body temperature. The major initial sign of hypothermia is a decrease in mental function that leads to impaired ability to make decisions. Tiredness or lethargy, changes in speech, and disorientation are typical. The person will act as if they are "drunk".

The body gradually loses protective reflexes such as shivering which is an important heat-generating defense. Other muscle functions also disappear so that the person cannot walk or stand. Eventually consciousness is lost.

Recognizing hypothermia can be difficult for the symptoms at first resemble other causes of change in mental and motor functions such as diabetes, stroke, alcohol or drug use, etc. The most important thing is to think of the possibility and be prepared to treat it.

Treatment involves slow heating of the body using blankets or other ways of increasing body warmth. Body temperature should increase by NO MORE than a couple of degrees per hour. What is done for the hypothermic individual depends on the seriousness of the problem.

People with mild or moderate hypothermia (are alert and conscious, and have not lost the shivering reflex) will usually just require removal from the cold environment and providing additional insulation. The use of warm sleeping bags, lighting a fire, warm food and fluids are just some of the various methods. Persons who have a more severe degree of body heat loss (not alert, can't shiver or stand) should also be brought to a medical facility as quickly as possible; rewarming of the body should continue as well.

Hypothermia is intentionally induced in some types of surgery and other situations in order to slow the metabolism of the patient and decrease their need for oxygen during the procedure.