HealthBeat: Hypothermia Dangers

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The death of a woman in Mobridge in an apparent case of hypothermia is raising awareness about the dangers of cold exposure.

Augustana junior Amy Brandt is training to run in an upcoming marathon in Nebraska.  She makes sure to dress in layers whenever she’s outside for long stretches.

“If it is too cold, or it’s super-windy, I’m not going to run outside.  I’m going to be smart about it, so I think that’s a really important thing to know,” Brandt said.

Hypothermia is when your core body temperature gets so low, you can become disoriented.  Even lower than that, your heart can give out.

“The best things to do are to avoid the cold.  If you have to be in the cold, dress in layers, dress appropriately.  Try to get yourself back warm if you can, go in and out of the cold,”  Avera emergency physician Dr. Matthew Nipe said.

If you do treat someone showing signs of hypothermia, don’t warm their hands and feet first.  Instead, warm their core: their chest and head.  If you do that, you’ll be a super-hero in your own right.

“I think Batman was trained like that in the movie if I remember, where they said warm up your core and let the extremities worry about themselves.  That’s kind of true.  You want to try to keep the core as warm as possible,” Nipe said.

Hypothermia can have deadly results.   But South Dakotans don’t always take the dangers seriously,  especially during warm stretches of winter.

“The weather in South Dakota is really bipolar, so it could be super-nice like this right now, or it could change in just a second,” Brandt said.

People who’ve been drinking alcohol are also at higher risk of hypothermia.

To learn more about symptoms and treatments for cold weather hazards like hypothermia and frostbite, click here

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