Hypothermia is the silent killer
- Hypothermia (lowering of the central core body temperature below 35deg C (95.0 F) is called the silent killer because especially when hiking it can creep up on you and you may not even be aware your body temperature is lowering. When you are hiking in wet, cold or windy weather without adequate protection from the elements, you may be at risk for hypothermia. A clue to be aware that you may be developing hypothermia in the early stages is that if you are hiking and as soon as you stop you begin to shiver, you are already losing more body heat than your body can produce. The only reason you are not falling into deeper hypothermia is because your body is producting heat to just maintain your core temperature. Other signs to be aware of on others is: confusion, stumbling, inappropriate words (person may appear to be drunk).
Treatment: - Hypothermia is a life threatening condition and must be dealt with immidiately! Take the person and place them in a shelter, remove all wet clothing, prevent further body heat loss, wrap them in blankets or other dry (preferably pre-heated clothing - a rescuer's clothing that has been pre-warmed may be useful), If the person is still shivering that means the body has not lost it's own way of producting heat, warm drinks and hot packs in the high heat loss areas (head, neck, groin, abdomen) will greatly aid in rewarming. If the person is losing conscousness, and no longer shivering this is a medical emergency, strip the person naked and have them lay with skin contact with another person - in the field this may be the only way to save their life).
Signal for Help - Use whatever means you have to signal for help, cell phone, Spot messenger, ELT, Whistle blasts; whatever it takes to begin rescue.
Prevention - Hike using the layer system, don't overheat, wear fleece, wool or other clothing with wicking properties. Drink plenty of fluids, take regular snack breaks, and watch for signs of hypothermia, especially when hiking in conditions that you would not think it can occure. Wet, days with temp of 5-10 deg C with a wind are prime days as you would not think it can happen. Be prepared and think ahead and you will be find.