Detection and management of hypothermia at a large outdoor endurance event in the United kingdom.
ABSTRACT Optimum detection of hypothermia in athletes during outdoor exposure events remains controversial. The aims of this study were firstly to assess whether temperature readings affected competitor discharge from the treatment station and secondly to assess agreement between oral and tympanic thermometer measurements.
All competitors treated for symptomatic hypothermia at an outdoor endurance event in the United Kingdom during January 2009 were included. Temperature readings were taken using oral (Digitemp digital oral thermometer) and tympanic (Braun Thermoscan IRT 4520 ExacTemp) thermometers, with a temperature <35 degrees C classifying hypothermia.
From 4700 competitors, 64 (1.4%) were treated for symptomatic hypothermia. Of these, 92% were male, the mean age was 26 years, and the mean treatment time was 25 minutes. There was no severe/life-threatening hypothermia, and no competitors required transport to a hospital for hypothermia. At discharge, 19% of competitors were still classed as hypothermic in the oral group and 28% in the tympanic group, despite competitors only being discharged when no longer symptomatic. Oral readings at discharge were significantly lower than tympanic readings (33.8 degrees C [95% CI, 33.2 degrees C to 34.5 degrees C] vs 35.0 degrees C [95% CI, 34.6 degrees C to 35.3 degrees C], respectively, P = .003).
The use of thermometers had a limited role in discharging competitors at this event, who were apparently safely discharged when no longer symptomatic. Treating clinicians and the thermometers did not always agree on whether a patient was hypothermic or not. Oral and tympanic thermometers had poor agreement. Routine thermometer readings at future events may be unnecessary, although screening competitors of concern will remain useful.