Web-based hypothermia information: a critical assessment of Internet resources and a comparison to peer-reviewed literature.Perspect Public Health. 2014 Feb 14;
Authors: Spencer JM, Sheridan SC
Aims:Hypothermia is a medical condition characterized by a drop in core body temperature, and it is a considerable source of winter weather-related vulnerability in mid-/high-latitude areas. Heat vulnerability research, including assessments of internet-based resources, is more thoroughly represented in the peer-reviewed literature than cold-related vulnerability research. This study was undertaken to summarize available web-based hypothermia information, and then determine its scientific validity compared to the peer-reviewed literature.Methods:This research takes a similar approach used by Hajat et al. for web-based heat vulnerability research, and utilizes this framework to assess hypothermia information found on the internet. Hypothermia-related search terms were used to obtain websites containing hypothermia information, and PubMed (medical literature search engine) and Google Scholar were used to identify peer-reviewed hypothermia literature. The internet information was aggregated into categories (vulnerable populations, symptoms, prevention), which were then compared to the hypothermia literature to determine the scientific validity of the web-based guidance. The internet information was assigned a Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy (SORT) grade (developed by the American Academy of Family Practitioners) of A, B, or C based on the peer-reviewed evidence.Results:Overall, 25 different pieces of guidance within the three categories were identified on 49 websites. Guidance concerning hypothermia symptoms most frequently appeared on websites, with six symptoms appearing on 50% or greater of websites. No piece of guidance within the vulnerable population categories appeared on greater than 60% of the websites, and prevention-related guidance was characterized by varied SORT grades.Conclusions:Hypothermia information on the internet was not entirely congruent with the information within the peer-reviewed medical literature. Several suggestions for improving web-based hypothermia resources include clearly listing sources for users to see and eliminating guidance with lower SORT grades and replacing with evidence-based information.