Avoiding Hypothermia

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Overnight, lows are expected to dip into the teens, exposure to temperatures that cold make hypothermia more likely to occur.

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard explains how to both avoid and detect it.

You want to avoid extreme cold, if at all possible.

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it.

Prolonged exposure will eventually use up your body's stored energy, and the result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.

Most often the victims are the elderly, with inadequate food, clothing or heating, babies sleeping in cold bedrooms, people who remain outdoors for long periods, such as the homeless, and people who drink alcohol or use illegal drugs.

But anyone can get hypothermia, and in temperatures not nearly this cold.

"The reality is you can get hypothermia in temperatures that we wouldn't normally think of as being associated with hypothermia. Even in the 40's, if you're immersed in water, for instance, you can get hypothermia, but obviously there's much greater risk when you're in the teens," says UT Emergency Medical Director Dr. Kip Wenger.

Warning signs include:
Shivering and exhaustion.
Confusion and fumbling hands.
Memory loss and slurred speech.
And drowsiness.

If you notice any of these signs, take the person's temperature.

If it's below 95 degrees, that person needs emergency medical care.