Thank you for continuing to follow our series, “Hiking the National Grand Canyon in Winter”. Last week, you learned that hiking the national park during the winter months may be an exciting adventure; but, it may result in serious complications if you are not prepared. Numerous illnesses and injuries may occur as a result of the weather, unforeseen events, and other natural occurrences. You also learned about the basic supplies that are needed to safely hike the Grand Canyon during the winter season. This week, you will learn about the most common and serious life-threatening condition that may happen to you or those with you, hypothermia.
What is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when a drop occurs in body temperature. In most instances, this condition develops when a person is consistently exposed to cold temperatures. On average, the temperature that is considered to be normal for humans is 98.6°F. When a person develops hypothermia, the average drops to below 95.0°F. In severe instances of the condition, the body temperature may drop into the 80s or 70s. When hiking during the winter months throughout the National Grand Canyon, you will find that you are subjected to cold temperatures, consistently. You must take the proper precautions in order to ensure that you do not develop this potentially deadly condition.
How Does the Cold Result in Hypothermia?
In order to properly protect yourself from developing hypothermia, you must understand how the cold results in the development of the issue. When you are subjected to cold for a prolonged period of time, up to 90% of the heat loss that occurs happens through your skin; however, you also will lose heat through the lungs, as you exhale. If, by chance, you are in water in an outdoor environment that is cold, heat loss will occur much faster – 25 times faster, to be exact. Normally, the heart and the liver are responsible for producing the heat throughout your body. As the body starts to cool, though, the organs produce less and result in a type of shut down that is designed to preserve what heat is currently available to properly protect the brain. Immediately thereafter, the heart rate, the breathing, and the activity in the brain slows down.
It is absolutely imperative that you learn the symptoms of hypothermia. This way, should you start to experience this issue while hiking in the National Grand Canyon this winter, you may get help:
- In the beginning stages, shivering may occur.
- It is common for the breathing to become slow and very shallow.
- Confusion and other cognitive issues may be experienced.
- The speech may start to become slurred or mumbled.
- Coordination issues may develop.
- The pulse may become slow and very weak.
Hypothermia is a dangerous medical condition that could result in severe injuries, illness, and/or death. When hiking in the National Grand Canyon during the winter months, you must ensure that you are dressed appropriately, have a means of communicating should you need assistance, and have all of the emergency supplies that you may need in order to prevent hypothermia from developing. If you would like to see the National Grand Canyon safely during the winter months, you should consider an alternative touring method, such as a Grand Canyon helicopter tour!