Winter in Canada can be dangerous and unforgiving. The threat of the Canadian cold is unknown to many countries, but for Canadians, it’s something we know and prepare well for. Any outdoor winter activity has the potential to turn into an emergency. That’s why you need to be prepared and know how to protect yourself from hypothermia, and other extreme cold-related emergencies.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is the unintentional drop of your core body temperature to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) or lower. Hypothermia can happen in any climate and in any situation. Some backcountry travellers have even become hypothermic in the summer months. However, cold and wet climates pose the greatest risk.

Symptoms of Hypothermia 

Know the symptoms of hypothermia:

  • Uncontrolled shivering
  • Slow or unclear speech
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Stumbling when walking 
  • Confusion and mental fog
  • Semi-consciousness or unconsciousness 

Preventing Hypothermia 

The best way to protect yourself from hypothermia is to wear insulating clothing and get inside after prolonged cold exposure.

There are some other ways to protect yourself from hypothermia, including:

  • Always check the weather before you go out
  • Layer up and wear lots of insulating clothing
  • Keep your car stocked in case of emergencies 
  • When you go out in the cold, take a buddy 
  • Buy good winter boots for cold weather and snow
  • Beware when near water or frozen bodies of water
  • Don’t stay out in extremely cold weather too long

Treating Hypothermia 

Left untreated, hypothermia can result in heart and respiratory system failure, and eventually death. There are a few different levels of hypothermia. Depending on the severity of it, the treatment can vary.

HT I: Mild Hypothermia, 35-32 degrees

In people with Mild Hypothermia, you’ll notice normal or near normal consciousness and shivering. Mild Hypothermia can be treated simply by: 

  • Changing wet clothing for dry clothing 
  • Insulating the person properly
  • Providing hot sweet drinks for calories
  • Encouraging gentle exercise to increase body temperature
  • Applying external heat sources to the armpits and groin

HT II: Moderate Hypothermia, 32-28 degrees

Moderate Hypothermia is when shivering stops and consciousness becomes impaired. Treat a person with Moderate Hypothermia by:

  • Handling them carefully to avoid deterioration 
  • Replacing wet clothing with dry clothes
  • Insulating and sheltering from the environment
  • Applying external heat sources to armpits, groin, neck, and trunk
  • Carefully giving hot sweet drinks

HT III: Severe Hypothermia, 24-28 degrees

Severe Hypothermia involves an unconscious person in which it may be difficult to detect vital signs. Help an individual with Severe Hypothermia by:

  • Handling them very gently
  • Preventing further heat loss
  • Providing proper insulation
  • Not giving food or drinks
  • Using external heat sources

HT IV: Apparent Death, 15-24 degrees

Patients with this level of hypothermia appear lifeless. There will be no detectable life signs, such breathing or heart beat. However, there are reports of successful resuscitation of HT IV patients. Until advanced medical personnel arrive on the scene, attempt to:

  • Prevent further heat loss 
  • Apply external heat sources

HT V: Death from irreversible hypothermia

This degree of hypothermia is when a patient can no longer be treated.

Protect Yourself from Hypothermia and Critical Illness

In all cases of hypothermia above Mild, call for medical assistance as the patient will require further medical treatment. Hypothermia can lead to more severe problems and critical health failures. So, be prepared, know what to do, and keep yourself safe and protected from hypothermia! 

Be prepared and protect yourself and your family with Critical Illness insurance.

Critical Illness Insurance is offered by Hudson’s Bay Financial Services and is underwritten by Chubb Life Insurance Company of Canada (“Chubb Life”). This information is for general information purposes only. Actual coverage is determined by the facts and circumstances of the particular loss and the terms and conditions of the policy as issued.

Chubb Life is part of the Chubb Group of companies. With operations in 54 countries, Chubb provides commercial and personal property and casualty insurance, personal accident and supplemental health insurance, reinsurance and life insurance to a diverse group of clients. Chubb Limited, the parent company of Chubb, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: CB) and is a component of the S&P 500 index.