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Hypothermia Causes - Long term Effects of Hypothermia

Whether in cases of extreme heat or extreme cold, the human body always tries to regulate its core body temperature. As warm blooded beings, it is necessary for human beings to maintain the nominal core body temperature so that the body can function properly.

During cold weather, the body can become unable to cope with the temperature of its surroundings. This results in the functions of the body being impaired and may ultimately result in hypothermia. Even when the person recovers from hypothermia successfully, damages to the body are still apparent such as skin problems especially in the extremities and a host of other serious internal problems.

So what is hypothermia? Hypothermia is the condition of the human body when it becomes unable to maintain the core body temperature so that it drops to levels lower than the necessary temperature to ensure the normal functioning of the body.

The body works constantly to maintain its core body temperature through a process called homeostasis. Through various internal and external systems, the body can deplete heat from the body in times of extreme heat and can replenish heat to the body in times of extreme cold. Overexposure to extremely cold temperatures results in exhausting the body's reserves for replenishing the heat lost to the cold temperature.

Hypothermia Stages - Severe Hypothermia Treatment

Hypothermia typically undergoes three stages which are punctuated by the temperature changes in the body. To begin with, it is important to note that the normal core body temperature of human beings is at 37 degrees Celsius. Hypothermia usually sets in when the body drops below 37 degrees Celsius.

Specifically, stage 1 hypothermia sets in when body temperature drops 1 to 2 degrees Celsius below 37 degrees Celsius. In this stage there is shivering, goose bumps form and the hands become numb and is incapable of doing complex tasks. A typical test to check for first stage hypothermia is to have the patient touch their little finger with their thumb. Persons with stage 1 hypothermia cannot achieve this task.

Stage 2 hypothermia is when body temperature drops by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius below 37 degrees. At this stage, shivering worsens and so does muscle miscoordination. Often times, the person experiences confusion and walks in a stumbling way. The person also becomes pale with blue extremities as the body limits blood flow to these areas in an effort to keep warm the vital organs.

Stage 3 hypothermia sets in once the body temperature drops below 32 degrees Celsius. At this stage shivering actually stops but the person begins to have difficulty in speaking. Thinking is also impaired and it is usual for amnesia to set in. At this stage, the person exhibits some common but very irrational behavior such as terminal burrowing and paradoxical undressing. Continued exposure to low temperature will soon result in major organ failure leading to death. Ironically, due to the severely lowered activity in the cells, brain death can actually take longer and a few persons have been revived from severe hypothermia though declared clinically dead.