First Aid Responder Level 3 (VTQ)

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Stages and Symptoms of Hypothermia

Video 76 of 213
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Grades of Hypothermia: Signs, Symptoms, and Actions

As a person's core temperature drops towards the critical threshold of 35°C, their body reacts with a series of symptoms indicating the onset of hypothermia. Understanding the different stages of hypothermia is essential for prompt and appropriate action.

Initial Signs of Hypothermia

Before we dive into the types, it's worth noting that as the victim's core temperature nears 35°C, they might begin to feel cold, potentially complain about it, and might start to shiver, which is the body's natural mechanism to generate warmth.

Mild Hypothermia

Characterised by a body temperature ranging between 32-35°C, the symptoms of mild hypothermia can be deceptively subtle:

  • Constant shivering
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Sluggish responses
  • Cold or pale skin
  • Fast breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Minor confusion and impaired judgement

Moderate Hypothermia

When the body temperature falls between 28-32°C, the individual is experiencing moderate hypothermia, marked by:

  • Confusion and impaired cognitive functions
  • Loss of judgement – sometimes leading to the paradoxical behaviour like undressing in cold
  • Decreased mobility and clumsiness
  • Loss of co-ordination
  • Drowsiness and slurred speech
  • Slow, shallow breathing (hypoventilation)

An essential observation: at temperatures of 32°C or lower, shivering may cease entirely, indicating a worsening condition and the urgent need for medical intervention.

Severe Hypothermia

This critical stage is identified by a body temperature of below 28°C, with symptoms such as:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Shallow or absent breathing
  • Weak or irregular pulse, or its absence
  • Dilated pupils
  • Cold, pale, or bluish skin

While individuals with severe hypothermia might appear lifeless, it's vital to get them to a hospital. Modern medicine can sometimes resuscitate patients from this state, although success isn't guaranteed.


Recognising the severity of hypothermia through its varied symptoms ensures timely medical intervention, potentially saving lives. Always stay informed and prepared.

Learning Outcomes:
  • IPOSi Unit four LO4.1 & 4.2