Here’s How to Prevent Hypothermia
In the classic scenario of bugging out through the woods, most people think that food and water are more important than shelter. This couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the rule of threes, you can survive 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food.
Counter intuitive, right? You can have all the food and water in the world but when night sets in and you’re all alone outside, with no place to go, lack of shelter will quickly cause your core body temperature to drop, taking you into a state of hypothermia. This doesn’t mean you’re dead in 3 hours if you don’t have shelter but it can mean you won’t have the ability to think properly.
Keeping in mind that I’m not a doctor and that my advice is for information purposes only, let’s see some prepper-approved tips to prevent hypothermia.
As you may or may not be aware, our body has a very narrow temperature bracket it needs to be in (from the ideal 98.6 F or 37 C). As the temperature drops due to lack of shelter (or something similar that can retain body heat), you start feeling sluggish and even irrational.
Since it’s always better to prevent than to treat something, let’s see what some of the ways to make sure you’ll never have hypothermia are.
The first layer of defense against hypothermia is to avoid obvious things such as getting and staying wet. If you need to cross a river while bugging out, you should consider the water temperature as well as the means to quickly dry yourself once you get to the other side. Keep in mind that, as long as the water you go into is colder than your body temperature, it will cause heat loss. Furthermore, when you go out of the water and your wet skin starts to dry, the evaporation process takes further body heat.
A big myth is that drinking alcohol will help you keep warm. False. In fact, what it does is it actually lowers your body temperature. It’s fast, too, and even though you feel warm, that’s only because more blood flows to the vessels near your skin, cutting the blood flow to your vital organs.
If you’re at home but the cold weather outside is causing the inside to be chilly, you obviously need to bring the temperature up and keep it that way:
· Shut all your doors and windows to avoid heat loss.
· Stay inside the smallest room of the house, preferably one that has as little walls to the exterior as possible (maybe your safe room?).
· Use any means necessary to heat the room, including propane or alcohol stoves, candles and so on). Keep in mind you may need to ventilate the air inside when using propane or butane. Even though some manufacturers claim the carbon monoxide levels are kept to a minimum if you use their appliances, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
· Gather all your family members in one room so the body heat from all of you keeps the temperature up.
The last common sense advice I want to give you is to always overdress when venturing outside. As kids, we never did that because it didn’t make us look cool and hated the feeling of having too many layers of clothes. Now we know better.
You should also keep in mind that over 2,000 U.S. citizens die each year from weather-related causes and about a 3rd of them from hypothermia.
Your Bug Out Bag Preps
If you’re out into the woods or hiking and you’re not properly dressed, forget about it. Any good bug out bag should have at least 3-4 ways to keep you warm including clothes (pants, wool sweaters, socks, gloves, thermal underwear etc.), emergency blankets and hats (we lost 7 to 10% of the heat our body produces through our noggins).
As soon as it’s getting nippy, you should definitely add 1 or 2 layers of clothes on you. If you haven’t built a shelter yet, keep in mind you’re going to spend a lot of energy in order to find it or make it. Dressing warm is mandatory even if you don’t feel cold (yet). Don’t be a hero.
We mentioned briefly that if you fall asleep in cold weather, it can be fatal. As I said, I’m no doctor and I don’t want to scare you for no reason but my own experience is that I get a running nose even if I fall asleep with the window open. Imagine what would happen for those of us with a low immunity system if we slept outside without a shelter.
As far as shelter is concerned, you can either have it in your survival bag or you can make it with the stuff you have at your disposal. I won’t go into how to make one because I talked in depth about them in another article but I do want to briefly mention all them:
· a tarp (this is actually the worst choice of all, as you’re about to see)
· an emergency blanket
· a rain poncho
· a tent (the best choice when in the middle of nature)
· plus the various types of shelters you can find in nature (think caves) or build for yourself
Now that you have shelter, the next thing you probably want to do is to build a fire. As long as you’re careful not to set your nest or nearby trees on fire, the extra heat will help increase the temperature inside, keeping you warm.
There are various ways to reflect heat inside the shelter, even to heat the rocks into the fire outside, then bring them inside, but this is beyond the scope of this article.
One last thing: keep in mind that tarps aren’t nearly as effective as tents to preserve heat. A good shelter or a tent will do a much better job in protecting you from nature’s wrath. If anything, wrapping someone who’s already affected by hypothermia inside a tarp can help retain body heat).
Dan F. Sullivan
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