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Sirmilik National Park of Canada

Hypothermia and Frostbite


Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition. People with hypothermia can no longer keep themselves warm and cannot re-warm themselves without assistance.

In Quttinirpaaq, hypothermia is a risk year-round. It can be particularly dangerous in summer when people least expect it. Summer air temperatures can change rapidly from warm (15ºC) to cool (0ºC or below). Rain or snow can quickly blow in. Prolonged exposure to cool, wet, and windy conditions can lead to hypothermia for those who are unprepared. Exposure to glacial meltwater during river and stream crossings can also lead to hypothermia.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

  • Shivering (may be absent in later stages)
  • Numbness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Confused or unusual behaviour
  • Body temperature below 35º C (95º F)

First Aid

  1. Remove any wet clothing and dry the casualty
  2. Warm the person gradually by wrapping him or her in sleeping bags and dry clothing
  3. If available, use heat sources such as hot water bottles or heating pads to assist warming avoid direct contact with skin), or use body heat
  4. If the casualty is alert, give warm liquids to drink
  5. Get medical attention as soon as possible


Skiers, mountaineers, and other winter and spring travellers must guard against frostbite when travelling in Auyuittuq. Conditions of extreme cold and wind are common, and care should be taken to avoid exposing the skin. Toes, feet, fingers, hands, ears and face are the body parts most prone to frostbite. Clothing should be windproof, warm, quick-drying, and breathable. Travellers should ensure that their clothing and equipment has been tested in arctic conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Frostbite

  • Shivering (may be absent in later stages)
  • Lack of feeling in the affected area
  • Skin that appears waxy
  • Skin that is cold to the touch
  • Skin that is discoloured (flushed, white, yellow, blue)

First Aid

  1. Cover the affected area
  2. Handle the area gently - do not rub!
  3. Warm the area gently by immersing it in water warmed to 40.5º C (105º F).This may require melting snow on a portable stove.
  4. Keep the frostbitten part in the water until it looks red and feels warm.
  5. Bandage the area with a dry, sterile dressing. Avoid breaking any blisters.
  6. Get medical attention as soon as possible. Do not thaw the frozen part if there is a possibility of refreezing.