MAHNOMEN COUNTY, MINN. — Local health officials say an emergency call for a woman suffering hypothermia highlights a common but overlooked danger.
On Friday, Nov. 22, a mid-morning call for an airlift to Sanford from Mahnomen County described a patient who may be suffering from mild case hypothermia.
Dr. Tony Hamilton, an Essentia Hospital emergency room physician, said calls like this are fairly common during the winter months, even when temperatures are above zero degrees. People can depend too much on their thermometer's readings and underestimate how the cold temperatures will affect their bodies.
"A temperature of 40 (degrees Fahrenheit) can cause hypothermia if you're not dressed well for it," said Hamilton. "Wind is obviously a large factor. It's all about how you're dressed for the weather."
Hamilton reminds us that clothing can only help you to a point — even if you're bundled up with hats gloves, a scarf, and boots, it doesn't necessarily mean time is on your side.
"The whole thing is exposure time. A temperature of 10 degrees isn't going to affect you if you're dressed really well. You could layout there for hours like that," said Hamilton.
But being dressed poorly and time can increase a person's chances of developing hypothermia.
And Hamilton highlights less well-known circumstances will speed up the process of hypothermia.
"Alcohol is a big factor for older folks because their metabolism is poor," Hamilton said.
Sitting still will expedite the low temperatures affect on the body. When a person is at rest, they will generate less heat.
Despite it being early in the season, Hamilton said the E.R. has treated a few cases but the cases were mild.
In severe cases, Hamilton says doctors will use a "Bear Hug" technique to warm the body.
Lastly, he reminds hunters and anglers to take extra care: They can become wet while enjoying the great outdoors and any type of water will drain their body heat.