How to treat a cold-induced condition

Cold-induced conditions occur when the body’s core temperature drops below 35ºC. The body’s natural reaction is to prevent body heat escaping and does this by shutting down blood vessels in the skin.

What to do

    1. Urgent medical aid. Call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.
    2. Follow DRSABCD St John Action Plan
    3. Remove the casualty to a warm, dry place
    4. Protect the casualty and yourself from wind, rain, sleet, cold or wet ground
    5. Help the casualty to lie down in a comfortable position
    6. Handle the casualty as gently as possible and avoid excess activity or movement
    7. Remove any wet clothing
    8. Warm the casualty by:
      + Placing between blankets, in a sleeping bag, or wrap in a thermal/emergency rescue blanket or similar and cover their head to maintain body heat; and/or
      + Hot water bottles, heat packs may be applied to the casualty’s neck, armpits and groin taking care to avoid burning the casualty. Body to body contact may be used if there are no other means available
    9. Aim to stop the temperature dropping any lower rather than attempt rapid rewarming:
      + DO NOT use radiant heat such as fire or electric heater; and
      + DO NOT rub affected areas.
    10. Give casualty warm drinks if conscious.
      + DO NOT give alcohol.

      Signs and symptoms

      • Feeling cold, shivering.
      • Clumsiness and slurred speech.
      • Apathy and irrational behaviour.

      When body temperature drops very low:

      • Shivering usually ceases.
      • Pulse may be difficult to find.
      • Heart rate may slow.
      • Level of consciousness continues to decline.
      • Unconsciousness.
      • Cardiac arrest may occur.

      Caused by

      • Exposure to cold, wet, or windy conditions
      • Immersion/submersion in cold water
      • Trauma, immobility and burns
      • Severe infections