Hypothermia is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • A core temperature of <35°C (95°F)
  • May take several hours to days to develop
  • Patients with cold-water immersion may appear dead but can sometimes still be resuscitated.
  • System(s) affected: all body systems
  • Synonym(s): accidental hypothermia


  • Predominant age: very young and the elderly
  • Predominant sex: male > female

Geriatric Considerations
More common in elderly due to lower metabolic rate, impaired ability to maintain normal body temperature, and impaired ability to detect temperature changes

Estimates vary widely; typically a secondary issue

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Overwhelming environmental cold stress
  • Decreased heat production
  • Increased heat loss
  • Impaired thermoregulation

Risk Factors

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Bronchopneumonia
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cold-water immersion
  • Dermal dysfunction (burns, erythrodermas)
  • Drug intoxication
  • Endocrinopathies (myxedema, severe hypoglycemia)
  • Excessive fluid loss
  • Hepatic failure
  • Hypothalamic and central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction
  • Malnutrition
  • Mental illness; Alzheimer disease
  • Prolonged cardiac arrest
  • Prolonged environmental exposure
  • Renal failure
  • Sepsis
  • Trauma (especially head)
  • Uremia

General Prevention

  • Appropriate clothing, with particular attention to head, feet, and hands
  • For outdoor activities, carry survival bags with rescue foil blanket for use if stranded or injured.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Alertness to early symptoms and initiating preventive steps (e.g., drinking warm fluids)
  • Identify medications that may predispose to hypothermia (e.g., neuroleptics, sedatives, hypnotics, tranquilizers).

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Addison disease
  • CNS dysfunction
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Pulmonary infection
  • Sepsis
  • Uremia

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* When formatting your citation, note that all book, journal, and database titles should be italicized* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Hypothermia ID - 816651 ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Stephens,Mark B, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816651/all/Hypothermia PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -