Doctors share warning signs after metro man dies from hypothermia

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The cold weather in the metro has claimed the life of one person.

The Kansas City Health Department confirmed Wednesday that a man in his 60s died of hypothermia; no further information was given.

Hypothermia starts to set in as your body drops below 96 degrees and occurs over a period of hours, according to doctors at Truman Medical Center.

“The temperatures we’ve been seeing in the past week, with temperatures in the zero range or below, those can be rapidly dangerous even for those who are well bundled up,” said Thomas Hindsley, a Truman Medical Center emergency physician.

Signs of hypothermia include feeling cold, shivering and numbness of your extremities. The most concerning side effect is when a person, who has been outside for an extended period of time, becomes disoriented.

“There’s a paradoxical reaction in cold injuries,” Hindsley said. “When people start to get very cold, they not only stop shivering but often times there will be this kind of psychogenic reaction to start to take off their clothes. At that point the ability of the victim to recognize what’s going on is often impaired.”

Since New Year’s Eve, metro doctors have treated the following cases for hypothermia:

  • Truman Medical Centers: 3
  • The University of Kansas Health System: 2
  • St. Luke’s Health System: 1

At Truman Medical, doctors use machines, including the Bair Hugger and Medi-Therm Hypo/Hyperthermia System, to help treat hypothermia. The Bair Hugger is similar to bubble wrap and sits on the patient as doctors pump hot air into it; the Medi-Therm can regulate the body temperature of a person.

“These (techniques) are kind of more active rewarming,” Hindsley said. "These will warm a person maybe in the range of 5 degrees an hour. The more passive warming like warm blankets or being in a warm room, often times will be a bit slower, maybe a degree or two an hour.”

Hindsley said the two methods are cost-effective and noninvasive.