Low Body Temperature: More Than Frostbite (and More Dangerous)

First of a five-part series about low body temperature. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Scenario one: You’re out on a morning walk, maybe hunting your breakfast. It’s cool, a little breezy, but not freezing. In fact, you work up a good sweat, take off your coat. You find a spot and sit a bit. You start getting hungry and a little nauseous. It’s that empty stomach. Before long, you get up—but forget your way back home. What’s going on? Scenario two: You visit your great-uncle to ask some advice. He’s getting up there in age but still sharp as a tack. He doesn’t answer the door. You go inside, and you can see your breath. He’s snoring in the bed, covers thrown off, stripped down to his underwear. What’s the deal? Carbon monoxide? Stroke? In both of these scenarios, a low body temperature should be high on your cause list. In medicine we call this hypothermia, and you don’t have to be in a snowstorm or on a mountaintop to get it. in fact, it’s not that unusual to read of hypothermia-related deaths in the Deep South, even Florida. Even Hawaii. Well, how cold is too cold? I’m going to tell you. But first let’s talk about how our body keeps us warm. […]

By | December 22nd, 2011|Cold, Weather|8 Comments

Conquering the Cold with Coors: Not Recommended But Whatever Works

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. As you’ll see in my upcoming five-part series on hypothermia, it’s not the cold weather that gets you. It’s how you handle it. If it were just the cold, the man stuck in his car for three days near Nome, Alaska, would have perished. But he didn’t. Sixty hours in the wilderness. It got down to 17 below zero at night, not even counting windchill.He cranked his car once a day (the gauge was on empty) for a little heat and waited, wearing tennis shoes, jeans, and a cheap coat. No food. How can somebody survive like that? Personally, I think it was the Coors. […]

By | December 20th, 2011|Cold, Weather|10 Comments