Winters in the Himalayas normally range between 10 degrees to around -10 degrees especially during nights. Surviving this much cold is not an easy task but if proper precautions are followed then it would become one of the best amazing experiences. However, some people do tend to get sick and face problems like Mountain sickness, frostbite and Hypothermia, out of which the worst nightmare of any mountaineer or hiker/trekker is-Hypothermia. Hypothermia is a situation in which the body loses its heat faster than it can produce it and the body temperature falls to subnormal. Factors like lack of shelter, over-exertion, inadequate food and fluids intake can trigger the situation further.
Symptoms and Treatment
The onset of hypothermia is typically gradual and the victim is often unaware that they need emergency medical treatment. Physical and mental capabilities of an individual gradually start diminishing. The key to successful treatment of hypothermia is early diagnosis. If you are trekking/hiking in a group, be alert to any changes in the demeanor of your hiking/trekking mates. If you are hiking solo, you need to be extra vigilant in regard to monitoring your own physical and mental state. If you notice certain unpleasant changes, take preventive measures as soon as possible.
Mild to moderate Hypothermia symptoms-
- Slurred speech
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Loss of dexterity in the fingers
- Slowing in the response mechanism
Severe case of Hypothermia symptoms-
- Shallow or no breathing.
- Weak or irregular pulse.
- Dilated pupils.
- Muscle rigidity.
- Increasingly pale skin color.
- Progressive loss of consciousness.
While treating hypothermia the main aim is to prevent further heat loss of the body and to slowly rewarm the patient along with calling the medical help.
- Find or set up shelter.
- Remove wet clothing.
- Put on something warm and dry.
- Get into sleeping bag/blanket.
- Drink warm fluids. Avoid coffee and alcohol which dehydrates the body and accelerate heat loss.
- Eat high-energy snacks such as chocolate, dry fruits etc.
- Focus on rewarming the center area of the body – groin, stomach, chest, neck and head. Do not attempt to rewarm the limbs as this will push cold blood back towards the lungs, heart and brain.
- It is common for people suffering from severe hypothermia to also have frostbite. Do not rub frostbitten areas, as this can severely damage the affected tissues.
- If the victim’s breathing has either stopped or appears threateningly slow or weak, begin CPR immediately.
In order to keep yourself away from Hypothermia, some preventive measures which can be taken into consideration are :-
Pre-check the weather Forecast – An intelligent traveler always checks the weather forecast before leaving his/her home. As we know that adapting is a lot easier when the person knows what’s coming his/her way in advance.
Awareness about Himself/herself – No one knows you better then yourself. So never push yourself against the limitations. While on trek/hike if the weather is getting worse, do not hesitate to stop.
Proper layering – Wearing multiple layers instead of a single bulky and thick layer is always a good and effective thing. While trekking/hiking these layers can be worn or removed according to the weather.
Sweating – While trekking/hiking normal sweating is ok. It is always better to sweat as little as possible especially in cold conditions and for this maintaining a steady pace on the trail works wonders. Sometimes due to over dressing and over exertion, the body over sweats this should always be avoided.
Short breaks – Taking short breaks at regular intervals is a good idea. Avoid stopping for long duration because the body starts getting cold, which is not a good thing.
Food – Eating high energy snacks at regular intervals during the day helps in maintaining body adequate body temperature and energy.
Water Intake – During a cold day, hikers/trekkers often forget to drink enough water which results in dehydration. So no matter whatever the situation is regularly drinking/sipping water is always beneficial.