Hypothermia

The condition of hypothermia can be defined as the lowering of the body temperature to such an extent that vital processes within the body begin to shut down. Hypothermia generally occurs when a person remains out of doors in very cold weather with insufficient clothing over a long period of time, staying in water for very long time-especially cold water can also cause hypothermia to develop in a person. Physical symptoms of localized hyperthermia include frostbite and chilblains affecting the coldest areas of the body. The body copes with cold by the behavior known as shivering, it is the first sign of that the body is chilled, but it helps the body to stay warm-it is thus a coping mechanism to cold, this mechanism can be stopped during hypothermia, particularly if the hypothermia progresses for a very long time. Severe hypothermia has several symptoms including complete physical exhaustion, mental dullness and confusion. Hallucinations start to affect the person as the body's temperature continues to fall during hypothermia, the rate of breathing and the heartbeat slow down to a crawl, all vital processes within the body begin to shut down and lastly the consciousness is lost and the person goes into a coma like state-if left untreated, the person will die.

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Though a number of factors can increase the susceptibility to hypothermia, the main reason is an over exposure to cold for prolonged periods of time. The chances of hypothermia increases if a person gets wet, becomes physically exhausted or remains still for long periods of time out in cold water or in cold weather. The coping mechanism to cold in young children and the elderly is slower and they are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia. Because of this susceptibility, young people and elder people must be particularly well equipped to handle cold temperatures especially in the extreme winters. The ability of the body to cope with cold is also reduced by the presence of excessive alcohol and some medications within the body, these substances increase the risk of hypothermia affecting the individual. Internal factors like hunger, dehydration and external factors like a wind-chill also contribute to the probability of a person suffering from hypothermia.

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Recovery is aided by consuming foods like hot tea or warm milk with honey; these liquids are effective in helping the body recover quickly from hypothermic shock. Alcoholic drinks can aggravate the conditions, and under no circumstances should alcoholic beverages be given to a person suffering from hypothermia. The natural vasodilating effects of the cayenne pepper can be utilized to aid in recovering from hypothermia; this herb will help open all the blood vessels and promotes proper circulation to continue.

Supplements and herbs

The herbs and herbal remedies given here can be used to treat hypothermia in affected individuals.

Make the affected individual drink a warm ginger tea to warm the body from within. The circulation within the body is supported by ginger which is a mild stimulant and this result in an increased flow of blood to the stomach. Sweating can result if the herbal tea is drunk boiling hot, this can result in the loss of body heat - to avoid this situation make sure the tea is used only after it has cooled down a little.

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Bilberry (botanical name Vaccinium myrtillus): This herb possesses antioxidant properties, in addition to supporting the vascular system. But using bilberry may enhance the chances of bleeding, particularly if you are taking drugs known as blood thinners, for instance, clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin, simultaneously. People having heart ailments, low blood pressure, problems related to formation of blood clots and/ or diabetes should consult their physician before using this herb. This herb is strictly prohibited for pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Green tea (botanical name Camellia sinensis): This herb is a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory actions, while protecting us from cold. It is advisable that you should always use green tea that does not contain caffeine. The leaf of this herb may also be used to prepare a remedial tea.

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Ginkgo (botanical name Ginkgo biloba): This herb is used for its antioxidant properties and ability to protect us from cold. You should know the ginkgo may react with several medicines and also enhance the possibilities of bleeding. Hence, it is advisable that people suffering from fertility problems and/ or diabetes and having a history of bleeding disorders or seizure should preferably avoid this herb. In addition, people who are taking any blood thinner, for instance, warfarin (Coumadin) or even aspirin should essentially consult their physician prior to using this herb.

Panax ginseng (botanical name Panax ginseng): This herb is prescribed for putting off the symptoms developed following exposure to cold. Panax ginseng may also be used to prepare a tea. However, this herb may possibly not suit people who are having autoimmune diseases, sleeping problems, heart ailments, schizophrenia, cancers related to hormone disorders, bleeding problems and so on. In addition, panax ginseng may also interact with several medicines, such as Lasix, insulin and caffeine. Use of panax ginseng also augments the risks of hemorrhage, particularly in people who are also taking blood thinning medications like clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin. It is essential to talk to your physician, prior to using panax ginseng.

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It may be noted here that drinking herbal teas may possibly assist in lessening the symptoms related to exposure to cold.

Homeopathy

Specific homeopathic remedies are useful for preventing as well as treating hypothermia.

As far as treating chilblains is concerned, the first homeopathic remedy that comes to one's mind is Agaricus muscarius. Chilblains cause tingling and itching sensations in the feet and toes, which are common features of frostbite. If you have not been prescribed any other medication to treat chilblains, it is advisable that you should use Agaricus muscarius.

Agaricus is an ideal homeopathic remedy for redness, swelling, skin eruptions accompanied by burning and itching sensations, and cramps. In a number of people, the redness is lasting following frostbite and they even have symptoms related to rosacea; while there are others who suffer from distended veins accompanied by a cold skin. It will be helpful to remember that this homeopathic remedy is also effective in curing very severe side effect of hypothermia, such as abnormal, turbulent heart palpitations that may occur when the condition is in an advanced stage. In most cases, the symptoms of such patients deteriorate further when they are in the open and exposed to cold air, after consuming foods, following sexual intercourse and just prior to a thunderstorm. On the other hand, slow movements improve their condition.

Pulsatilla is another homeopathic remedy for hypothermia, especially if the symptoms of the patients deteriorate when they come in contact with heat or owing to remaining in a warm room. This homeopathic remedy is particularly effective in patients who have a hot and itchy feeling even much after they have been cooled using cold water. You may consider giving the patient Rhus toxicodendron in case the patient develops deep red itching inflammations on the cooled skin and if these symptoms worsen further when exposed to damp and cold. Other homeopathic remedies that are effective for treating coldness and itching of the skin, fingers or the feet comprise Abrotanum, Plantago, and Tamus. Abrotanum is especially effective for improving movements that worsen when the patient comes in contact with cold air and also for restraining any type of secretion. You may apply Tamus topically to the affected areas to alleviate itching. Similarly, Calendula may also be applied externally to the skin surface where there are any blister ruptures and also in places where the skin requires being sterilized and also to promote healing.

The homeopathic remedy Nux vomica is effective for treating external inflammations that are accompanied with bright reddish swellings as well as a burning sensation. This remedy is required most when the skin starts cracking and bleeding when it gets warmer and also when the patient demonstrates the characteristic emotional condition of a Nux vomica personality, for instance, intense anger, irritation and some sort of a denouncement/ denial of the circumstances. Petroleum is an excellent homeopathic remedy for bleeding; inflamed or cracked skin; swollen, inflamed and sore reddish heals having a horrible smelling wetness. While the physical symptoms of patients requiring Petroleum are similar to those needing Nux vomica, the mental conditions differ. A patient requiring Petroleum will be extremely worried about death and will require settling all affairs with anger as well as a short-tempered disappointment instead of doing so in a calm way.

People who have suffered very serious frostbite require Arsenicum album and their frozen skin has a propensity to develop gangrene. In some cases, they may have blackish vesicle on the affected body areas. Before administering this homeopathic remedy, you should also ensure whether or not the patient is demonstrating any restiveness and/ or fussy nervousness, which is typical of people requiring this medication.

You may consider giving the patient Sulphur provided the chilblain is showing any tendency to discharge pus and if the burning inflammation deteriorates when the affected part becomes warm when in bed. However, when the itching and swelling is very aggressive, you may consider giving the patient Zinc. While giving the homeopathic remedy Zinc, try to find if the patient has the restless feet, which is typical of people requiring this medication.

Aconitum is an extremely effective homeopathic remedy, especially when it is used immediately after the patient has been exposed to cold. In addition, it is also useful for people who have been exposed to shock and when the extremities of the patient are either numb or have a cold and tingling sensation. Consider using the homeopathic remedy Cuprum metallicum when the patients' skin turns bluish and the condition is accompanied with cramping muscles.

In homeopathy, Arnica is a vital first aid remedy, especially for treating shock and the mental condition after a trauma. Another remedy, Carbo vegetabilis is useful for treating chilled, bluish skin, especially in the case of patients who are feeble, slow, almost fainting and suffering from breathing troubles.

Additional things you may do

To return some warmth into the affected person's body as quickly as possible, make sure to remove the source of cold or shelter the person from the cold. If the person is out of doors, get him or her indoors as quickly as possible and make them lie down-if in the water, then pull them out of the water as quickly as possible. Make sure to remove all the wet clothing and carefully dry the body. Use warm and dry blankets to wrap the victim, if a sleeping bag is available make the person lie inside along with another person - this will heat him or her faster. A hot-water bottles applied to the side of the chest can also warm the person really fast.

When you are dealing with hypothermia, it is important that you cover the patient properly with blankets, making certain that the blankets also cover the head. While doing so, you should be careful not to exert any direct pressure on any area that has frostbite.

Drinking warm, but not hot, fluids will help to provide relief from the symptoms. Ideally, the patient should be given warm milk and honey, or broth to facilitate recuperation.

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