Slurred speech could signal hypothermia – other signs

Dr Chris shares advice on elderly avoiding hypothermia

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The UK is currently experiencing cold conditions, with temperatures expected to drop further. With this comes a whole host of health risks. Hypothermia is one such risk that can even affect people while inside.

Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body temperature drops below 35C (normal body temperature is 37C).

While you are more at risk of this when outside in cold weather, some are still vulnerable when in their homes – if they are not adequately warm.

Gary Ellis, director at health and safety specialists CE Safety, spoke with to explain more.

He said: “It’s not well known that hypothermia can occur in the home, most people associate it with being outside or only in extreme temperatures.

“In fact, hypothermia can occur if the body temperature drops below 35C in just 10 minutes wherever you are if the temperature is cold enough.

“It’s vital to know the severity of hypothermia, how to spot it and what to do if someone is showing symptoms.”


Adults with hypothermia could experience slurred speech, according to Mr Ellis.

Other signs among adults include:

  • Pale, dry and cold skin
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Slow breathing.

However, symptoms differ among children and babies.

These can include:

  • Skin that is cold to the touch
  • Refusing to eat or feed
  • Floppy limbs.

If you suspect someone has hypothermia you should take them to A&E or call 999 as soon as possible.

While waiting for medical help the NHS advises you:

  • Move the person indoors or somewhere sheltered as quickly as possible
  • Remove any wet clothing, wrap them in a blanket, sleeping bag or dry towel, making sure their head is covered
  • Give them a warm non-alcoholic drink and some sugary food like chocolate if they’re fully awake
  • Keep them awake by talking to them until help arrives
  • Make sure you or someone else stays with them.

But it warns:

  • Do not use a hot bath, hot water bottle or heat lamp to warm them up
  • Do not rub their arms, legs, feet or hands
  • Do not give them alcohol to drink.

“These will not help and could make things worse,” it says.

How to keep your children and babies warm

CE Safety adds: “Keep your children warm by dressing them in layers.

“Layering is key to trapping the heat in and wicking away any moisture as sweat can make you lose heat very quickly.

“For babies, wrap them in a swaddling blanket, or if they don’t like these choose a baby-safe sleeping bag or a footed cotton sleepsuit.

“A lot of heat is lost through the head and hands, so ensure these are covered with a baby cap or mittens.

“Make sure your babies and children are also wearing socks to avoid heat loss through the feet.”

The NHS says you can get hypothermia if you:

  • Do not wear enough clothes in cold weather
  • Stay out in the cold too long
  • Fall into cold water
  • Have wet clothes and get cold
  • Live in a cold house – older people living alone are particularly at risk.

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