If somebody is hypothermic, in other words, let’s say you are out on a bush walk, and you come across somebody who’s been stuck outside for a long period of time and they’re clearly cold and really in distress, it’s a specialised issue rewarming and you don’t want to rewarm too fast. I don’t wanna say too much here because this is something that’s really important that you get right. Certainly you would put a space blanket or a blanket and you could cover them up but you probably don’t wanna rewarm too quickly and I think when they get into emergency departments, probably with hypothermia are rewarmed quite slowly.

What if someone is suffering from starvation?

It’s the same, by the way, with starvation. If you come across somebody who hasn’t eaten for many days out in the bush, you do not want to refeed very quickly because they could be vitamin deficient and you can actually create a worsening of their vitamin deficiency. So refeeding’s gotta be really careful as well if you’ve had a period of starvation.

So hypothermia requires slow, careful rewarming, usually by experts but if you’re in the field and you come across somebody like that, then the first aid thing to do is to make sure they’re covered and warm but don’t heat them up too quickly.

Dr Norman Swan, Physician and Journalist

Last Reviewed: 16/09/2020

myDr

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