It is February in the Flathead Valley and until lately winter has not been nearly as severe as it could be. It’s easy to actually dismiss things as mild and we can go about our day because the snow isn’t piled up. That is a fair assessment. But what if you have to live in the elements?

Did you know it doesn’t have to be brutally cold to experience hypothermia? If a person suffers ongoing exposure to even 70 degrees without thermal protection and food or nutrients, he or she can become hypothermic. Honestly, some of the most dangerous environmental situations occur in temperate climates when the temperature drops suddenly. 

It is essential to try and recognize early symptoms of hypothermia is. There are three stages of hypothermia related to the body’s core temperature:

• Mild hypothermia, 90°–95°. This is when heart and respiratory rates increase. Other indicators are, hyperventilation, difficulty walking, slurred speech, impaired judgment, pronounced shivering, and frequent urination.

• Moderate hypothermia, 82°–90°. During this stage, a person experiences a lowered pulse, shallow breathing and slowed respiratory rate, slowed reflexes, shivering stops, confusion and disorientation, common cardiac arrhythmias, and paradoxical undressing.

• Severe hypothermia, less than 82°. The most advanced stage is evidenced by hypotension, slow pulse, pulmonary edema, coma, ventricular arrhythmias (including ventricular fibrillation), and possible asystole or “flat line” EKG.

At the shelter, cold weather contingency plans are in place and we hope to get everyone in from the cold that needs it. 

Please remember those who either live in the elements or spend great portions of their days outdoors in the winter. We welcome donations and right now warm hats, coats and socks can go a long way in helping save lives.