American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Hypothermia: The Facts

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  • Publication Year: 1984

Hypothermia: The Facts. K.J. Collins. Oxford University Press, New York, 1983. 136 pages, 8 black and white illustrations, charts. $13.95.

This is a disappointing book which will satisfy neither the doctor nor the mountaineer. Though apparently written for the nonphysician, many passages will be difficult for the layman, others too elementary for the scientist. The author, a lecturer on problems of aging, understandably stresses the dangers and frequency of unsuspected hypothermia among the poor, the old and the feeble: 2000–3000 cases and 700 deaths a year in chilly Britain. Forty pages are devoted to a good discussion of the physiology or temperature regulation, thirty to the home environment and fifteen to hypothermia caused by accidents on the water or in the hills. There is one serious omission: the danger of heart irregularity and arrest if the seriously hypothermic person exerts himself. It is, therefore, essential that the victim be kept quiet, not allowed to walk or move, and handled with extreme care. The importance of this has been shown repeatedly but is nowhere mentioned. Nor is the frequency of irrational thinking leading to hallucinations adequately stressed. Though there is considerable discussion of clothing, the large heat loss from the head, necessitating good headgear, is not mentioned. Methods for rewarming in a hospital are covered well but, for the mountaineer, the instructions are superficial.

Charles S. Houston. M.D.

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