Epidemiology

Hypothermia is defined as a core temperature less than 35°C (95°F). While most commonly seen in cold climates, it may develop without exposure to extreme environmental conditions. Hypothermia is not uncommon in temperate regions and may even develop indoors during the summer. In the United States, more than 700 people die from hypothermia each year. Half of those who die from hypothermia are older than 65 years.1

Individuals at the extremes of age and those with an altered sensorium for any reason are particularly susceptible to developing hypothermia. The elderly may lose their ability to sense cold; neonates easily become hypothermic because of their large surface area to volume ratio. Both groups have a limited ability to increase heat production and to conserve body heat. Individuals with an altered sensorium, if unable to carry out the appropriate behavioral responses to cold stress, may develop hypothermia despite otherwise intact thermoregulatory mechanisms.

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