PENOBSCOT COUNTY – Winter is in full swing, which means it’s not difficult to get hypothermia.
“We define it as having a core temperature that’s under 95 degrees,” said Kristopher O’Connell M.D., a staff physician at Northern Light Family Medicine in Hampden. “That might sound like a lot, you know, outside, but our body temperatures, we’re used to being around 97-98.”
O’Connell said cold weather plays a big role in this.
“It’s usually prolonged outdoor exposure, specifically cold water submergence, so people who are swimming in lakes or streams that are very cold,” O’Connell said.
Besides the environment, O’Connell said hypothermia can be caused from medications or certain health conditions.
He said there are noticeable symptoms.
“Typically, the heart rate increases. They shiver. They noticed they’re starting to move around more. They’re trying to generate heat on their own,” O’Connell said.
District Game Warden Shannon Fish said it’s important to have a plan in place should an issue arise.
“You tell everybody where you’re going. Write it down. Give it to someone that knows where you’re going. You can explain it to them. If something goes bad, they have a place for us to start should they call,” Fish said.
O’Connell said some ways to avoid getting hypothermia include wearing a hat and mittens and keeping your clothes dry.
“Wet clothing can increase your heat loss by five to 10 percent, and wind can rapidly lose body heat as well,” O’Connell said.
Fish suggested making a safety bag with items for cold weather.
“Matches, extra clothing, fire starting materials, things of those nature, extra hat, mittens, socks,” Fish said.
Fish said a third of the calls the game wardens get each year involve hypothermia.
O’Connell said about 1,320 people in the United States die from hypothermia each year.
“That might not seem like a lot, but when you talk about hypothermia, it’s a preventable death, so we could have prevented these many deaths,” O’Connell said.