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Rocky Mountain Region

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Hypothermia

Caused by a rapid loss of body heat, hypothermia is the most dangerous illness of backcountry travel. It can strike on a balmy day, under conditions you least expect. Often victims don't recognize the symptoms, simply because they can't believe hypothermia could strike under comparatively mild travel conditions. The victim may have to rely on fellow travelers to spot the attack and act to insure recovery.

Drastic lowering of the inner body temperature causes rapid and progressive mental and physical collapse. Symptoms include fits of shivering, vague, slurred speech, memory lapse, fumbling hands, lurching walk, drowsiness and exhaustion, and apparent unconcern about physical discomfort.

Get the victim out of the wind and wet. Restore body temperature. Skin-to-skin contact is quickest. Place the victim in a dry sleeping bag, then have one or two heat donors surround the victim. If the victim is conscious, give warm drink - even hot water (not coffee or other stimulant.) When fit for travel, carry the victim out in windproof and waterproof covering.

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