Symptoms of hypothermia 

The symptoms of hypothermia can vary depending on how low your body temperature has become.

The early symptoms of hypothermia are often recognised by a parent or carer. This is because hypothermia can cause confusion, poor judgement and changes in behaviour, which means the affected person may not realise that they have it. 

Mild hypothermia

If someone has mild hypothermia (generally with a body temperature of 32-35˚C), the symptoms aren't always obvious but they can include:

  • constant shivering
  • tiredness
  • low energy
  • cold or pale skin
  • fast breathing (hyperventilation)

Moderate hypothermia

Moderate cases of hypothermia (generally with a body temperature of 28-32˚C) can include symptoms such as:

  • being unable to think or pay attention
  • confusion
  • loss of judgement and reasoning (someone with hypothermia may decide to remove clothing despite being very cold)
  • difficulty moving around 
  • loss of co-ordination
  • drowsiness
  • slurred speech
  • slow, shallow breathing (hypoventilation)

People with a body temperature of 32˚C or lower will usually stop shivering completely. This is a sign that their condition is deteriorating and emergency medical help is required.

Severe hypothermia

The symptoms of severe hypothermia (a body temperature of below 28˚C) can include: 

  • unconsciousness
  • shallow or no breathing
  • weak, irregular or no pulse
  • dilated pupils

Someone with severe hypothermia may appear to be dead. However, under these circumstances the individual must be taken to hospital to determine whether they have died, or if they are in a state of severe hypothermia. Medical treatment can still be used to resuscitate people with severe hypothermia, although it is often fatal.

Hypothermia in babies

Babies with hypothermia may look healthy but their skin will feel cold. They may also be limp, unusually quiet and refuse to feed.

When to seek medical attention

If you suspect hypothermia, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

If you suspect someone has severe hypothermia, dial 999 immediately to request an ambulance.

Page last reviewed: 28/05/2013

Next review due: 28/05/2015