Be careful of how low your thermostat is set, or you could put yourself on the path to cold injuries, says Dr. Dietrich Jehle, associate medical director at Erie County Medical Center.
People with pre-existing vascular diseases are more at risk. So are children, because they have more body surface area proportionally to weight and can lose heat more easily. And the elderly are very much predisposed to hypothermia.
He outlined the different stages of hypothermia.
The mild form occurs when the body temperature is between 90 and 95 degrees.
"You might have some mild confusion," said Jehle, professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo.
When the body temperature lowers to 82 to 90 degrees, lethargy sets in and there are changes in mental status. You also lose your ability to shiver, which is the body's way of responding to cold and warming itself up, Jehle said.
Anything below 82 degrees puts you at a higher risk of cardiac arrhythmia, coma and drops in blood pressure.
Also beware of the types of prescriptions you are taking. Certain medications, such as drugs for psychiatric conditions, hypertension and diabetes are contributors to hypothermia.
"They can limit the body's ability to have a normal shivering response," said Jehle. "Shivering is your body's own way of responding to the cold and warming your own body up."
-- Deidre Williams