The American Red Cross defines hypothermia as “the cooling of the body caused by the failure of the body’s warming system.” (1)

Hypothermia can lead to death, if untreated!

While everyone is at risk of hypothermia, some individuals are more susceptible: (2)

  • The elderly.
  • Children.
  • Individuals with lower body fat.
  • Males because their bodies generally cool faster than females.


Hypothermia can occur in water that is 80°F and colder.(2)

Symptoms include the following:

Mild Hypothermia

  • Shivering
  • Altered Judgement
  • Clumsiness
  • Numbness
  • Pain from Cold
  • Loss of Dexterity
  • Fast Breathing
Moderate Hypothermia

  • Semiconscious to Unconscious
  • Reduced Shivering or Absent Shivering
  • Lips are Blue in Color
  • Slurred Speech
  • Individual Appears to be Drunk
  • Rigid Muscles
  • Slow Breathing
  • Feeling of Warmth
Severe Hypothermia

  • Coma
  • Heart Stops
  • Clinical Death

The human body loses heat 30 times faster in water. (2)

Facts to remember about cold water and hypothermia(2)

  1. To conserve body heat, curl up into a ball with your knees at your chest.
  2. Remain as still as possible.
  3. Hypothermia can occur even when the temperature outside is hot.
  4. Lean bodies cool faster in the water.
  5. Alcohol and drugs quicken the onset of hypothermia by opening the blood vessels next to your skin, thus causing your body to lose heat more quickly.
  6. 50/50/50 Rule: An average adult has a 50% chance of surviving a 50 yard swim in 50°F water.
  7. Teach children the dangers of playing on or near frozen bodies of water.
  8. Wearing a life jacket allows you to curl up into a ball and remain as still as possible without sinking.
  9. Wearing a life jacket can save your life!
  10. If a person’s body temperature reaches 95°F – CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY


(1) American Red Cross. (2007, March). Frostbite and hypothermia. Retrieved 2017, from American Red Cross: https://www.ttuhsc.edu/emergency/documents/AmericanRedCrossFrostbiteHypothermia.pdf
(2) East Pierce County Fire & Rescue. (n.d.). Hypothermia in our lakes and rivers: Even in summer! Washington.

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