Skip to content

Fitness & Exercise

Come on in, the Water's ... Freezing!!

Font Size


As the body cools, blood moves to the central organs to maintain core temperatures. This means hypothermic swimmers may get numb fingers and toes, which affects their ability to grasp objects. As the brain receives less oxygen, the swimmer can become confused and disoriented, so someone who's in need of rescue may not follow directions well.

If someone is shivering and has blue lips, but no other problems, they just need to be warmed, Musler says. But don't put them in a warm shower or tub.

"In the field, use blankets and clothing to maintain body temperature. Once they're indoors, you may sit them in a warm room, but not right next to a heat source. Use normal temperature blankets at first, and then perhaps use warmed blankets. Rewarming should be a slow, steady, gradual process."

Give them lots of lukewarm liquids, says Todd Schlifstein, MD.

"Hydration is very important to help get rid of muscle metabolites that are formed when you shiver a lot," says Schlifstein, a clinical instructor at New York University Medical Center.

However, if someone is so cold they can't stand or move their limbs normally, if they don't know who they are or where they are, those are signs of more severe loss of function.

"In that case, it makes sense to go to an emergency room, where trained people know how to deal with this situation," Musler says.

When a person is short of breath and close to passing out, or feels their heart beating irregularly, they too should go to the emergency room, Schlifstein adds.

"Or when you try normal rewarming measures and the person continues to shiver and doesn't improve, take them to the emergency room," he says. "In some cases of hypothermia the body cannot rewarm itself."

1 | 2

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

pilates instructor
15 moves that get results.
woman stretching before exercise
How and when to do it.
couple working out
Moves you can do at home.
woman exercising
Strengthen your core with these moves.
man exercising
knees to chest
Man looking at watch before workout
Overweight man sitting on park bench

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

pilates instructor
jogger running among flowering plants
woman walking
woman doing pushups